Trajectory Design for a High Speed Aircraft

As an intern during Summer 2019, one of my tasks was to size and plan a flight for a remote-controlled aircraft testing a rotational detonation engine (RDE). The aircraft needed to reach a speed of Mach 3, remain as close to the airport as possible, and conduct maneuvers in the same fashion as a real aircraft would. To accomplish this, I used a new trajectory model developed by PSS.

After creating the RDE analytical model outputting specific fuel consumption and sizing the aircraft to carry 25 kilograms of hydrogen, I was ready to map the trajectory of the flight. I inputted dry mass, initial fuel mass, wing aspect ratio, and wing area, then plugged in the RDE specific fuel consumption function. The next step was to build flight segments for take-off, climb, turns, cruise, etc. Segments can be simulated separately allowing the user to fine tune parameters like velocity, heading, and pitch. Initial aircraft flight conditions can be set and tracked through segments using the MATLAB debugger. Here is a sample segment of a take-off followed by a turn and climb:

The trajectory I built encompasses a climb to 10 km, an acceleration to Mach 3, and several heading changes to remain in transmitting range of the airport and to set up an approach. A photo of the climb portion and deceleration from Mach 3 is included. The climb shows take-off and initial climb to 200 m, and a turn before continuing the climb. The deceleration phase shows slowing from Mach 3 and a turn to set up an approach to the airport. The total flight time is about 15 minutes. In working at PSS, I have not only learned about aircraft design and cycle analysis, but also CubeSats, space environments and disturbances and improved my coding skills. This summer has been a lot of fun and overall incredible!


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