Optimal Engine Selection and Trajectory Optimization using Genetic Algorithms for Conceptual Design Optimization of Resuable Launch Vehicles
Steele, Steven Cory Wyatt
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Proper engine selection for Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLVs) is a key factor in the design of low cost reusable launch systems for routine access to space. RLVs typically use combinations of different types of engines used in sequence over the duration of the flight. Also, in order to properly choose which engines are best for an RLV design concept and mission, the optimal trajectory that maximizes or minimizes the mission objective must be found for that engine configuration. Typically this is done by the designer iteratively choosing engine combinations based on his/her judgment and running each individual combination through a full trajectory optimization to find out how well the engine configuration performed on board the desired RLV design. This thesis presents a new method to reliably predict the optimal engine configuration and optimal trajectory for a fixed design of a conceptual RLV in an automated manner. This method is accomplished using the original code Steele-Flight. This code uses a combination of a Genetic Algorithm (GA) and a Non-Linear Programming (NLP) based trajectory optimizer known as GPOPS II to simultaneously find the optimal engine configuration from a user provided selection pool of engine models and the matching optimal trajectory. This method allows the user to explore a broad range of possible engine configurations that they wouldn't have time to consider and do so in less time than if they attempted to manually select and analyze each possible engine combination. This method was validated in two separate ways. The codes ability to optimize trajectories was compared to the German trajectory optimizer suite known as ASTOS where only minimal differences in the output trajectory were noticed. Afterwards another test was performed to verify the method used by Steele-Flight for engine selection. In this test, Steele-Flight was provided a vehicle model based on the German Saenger TSTO RLV concept and models of turbofans, turbojets, ramjets, scramjets and rockets. Steele-Flight explored the design space through the use of a Genetic Algorithm to find the optimal engine combination to maximize payload. The results output by Steele-Flight were verified by a study in which the designer manually chose the engine combinations one at a time, running each through the trajectory optimization routine to determine the best engine combination. For the most part, these methods yielded the same optimal engine configurations with only minor variation. The code itself provides RLV researchers with a new tool to perform conceptual level engine selection from a gathering of user provided conceptual engine data models and RLV structural designs and trajectory optimization for fixed RLV designs and fixed mission requirement.
- Masters Theses