Reusable Rocket Boosters

Reusable Rocket Boosters


GE Aircraft Engines (GEAE), in cooperation with NASA's Space Launch Initiative Propulsion Office, has begun a study to develop a jet engine to power reusable flyback rocket boosters for a second generation reusable launch vehicle.

The Space Launch Initiative Propulsion Office launched the study to assess military and commercial jet engines that could power a reusable booster.

"We are pleased to once again partner with NASA to develop an advanced propulsion system for future space transportation applications," said Dr. Mike Benzakein, manager of advanced technology programs at GEAE. "Our goal is to provide a propulsion system that will dramatically increase vehicle safety and reliability while reducing the cost of operating and maintaining reusable launch vehicle boosters."

The Space Shuttle uses solid rocket boosters that are parachuted into the sea and retrieved for reuse after launch. The Space Launch Initiative is considering vehicle concepts that would fly first stage boosters back to a designated landing site after separation from the second stage vehicle. These flyback boosters would be powered by jet engines once the booster rocket engines have shutdown and have been separated from the second stage.

The powered flyback booster would include several jet engines integrated into the booster capable of providing over 100,000 pounds of thrust. The booster would land on a designated runway shortly after launch.

NASA's new study is set to determine the requirements for the engines and identify risk mitigation activities including understanding the impact to current engine designs, the approach to addressing risk issues, and the costs associated with jet engine development and production. GEAE is being considered as a candidate jet engine manufacturer for possible use on the flyback booster.