Research & Development

Team Conducts First Flight Test of Prototype Reentry Break-up Recorder Hardware

California State University , Long Beach (CSULB) and industrial partner Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) recently conducted the first flight test of a prototype configuration of a proposed Reentry Break-up Recorder (REBR) for spacecraft and launch vehicles. Developed by The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace) under its Independent Research and Development program, the Launch Hardware Tracker (LHT) experiment evaluated the use of the Iridium satellite network for transmitting vehicle flight dynamics data during the 29 April 2006 flight of the Prospector 7 (P-7) prototype reusable launch vehicle (RLV). This was the third flight for the P-7, which features stage elements that are of the same scale as a potential nanosat launch vehicle that could deliver up to 10 kg to a low Earth orbit.

P-7C Accelerates on the launch rail

P-7C accelerates on the launch rail

P-7C in flight

Prospector-7's third flight test

Flight test videos:

Originally developed by the GSC/CSULB team under a Phase I SBIR project with the Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate (AFRL/PR), the P-7 was previously utilized to conduct two launches within 3.5 hours on 29 October 2005 in a demonstration and evaluation of fast turn-around RLV operations. For this LHT flight test, several modifications were made to accommodate the LHT's dual-band antenna assembly and to reduce landing area dispersion associated with wind drift during descent. The LHT package itself consisted of the antenna system, an integrated GPS receiver and Iridium data modem and a custom data acquisition unit developed by Aerospace. The Iridium link was established prior to launch from the test site in the Mojave desert to a user team in Aerospace's offices in Colorado Springs , CO . The system successfully transmitted real-time data throughout the boost phase, the subsequent coast to apogee (slightly over 4,000 ft), several parachute deployments, descent and even landing.

CSULB/GSC/Aerospace Corp./SMC Team

CSULB/GSC/Aerospace Corp./SMC/MSU team

This third P-7 mission was also supported by the Strategic and Developmental Planning Directorate of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC/XR). It provided SMC an early pathfinder opportunity to assess Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) concepts being investigated through its Generic Approach to Launch Transformation (GALT) initiative. Lessons learned from this and other Prospector vehicle flights are contributing to small launch vehicle activities that include the Air Force / DARPA FALCON program as well as SMC's Hybrid Launch Vehicle project that is now getting started.

The P-7 is already undergoing refurbishment in preparation for its fourth flight later this summer. Sponsored jointly by SMC and AFRL/PR through a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project, the next P-7 flight will continue the GALT pathfinding of austere launch site operations. In parallel, Aerospace is reviewing future flight opportunities for manifesting the next iteration of the LHT experiment package.

For further information about The Aerospace Corporation's REBR program or the SMC GALT initiative, please contact:

Dr. David Garza

The Aerospace Corporation

(310) 336-5077

Lt. Daniel Hall

Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

(310) 653-9076


For additional information about either the CALVEIN project and/or the cooperative program between CSULB and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, please contact the following project representatives:

  • Dr. Eric Besnard
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept.
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • 1250 Bellflower Blvd Long Beach, CA 90840
  • Tel:(562) 985-5442
  • Fax:(562) 985-1669
  • John Garvey
  • Garvey Spacecraft Corporation
  • 389 Haines Avenue
  • Long Beach, CA 90840-1841
  • Tel:(562)-498-2984
  • Email:

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