Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Robert A. Bettinger, PhD


The atmospheric skip entry has been studied since London's presentation in 1962 describing a more fuel efficient means of altering the orbital inclination of satellites. Since London, research over the decades since has traversed many aspects of this field with varying degrees of success. The present research employs the use of modern optimal control software, complex dynamics with minor simplifications, and thrust vectoring to re-approach the aerocruise atmospheric skip entry. Using the aerodynamics of the X-34, the aerocruise problem is first compared to the un-powered aeroglide where it is shown that the aerocruise is capable of increasing the inclination change by an average of 10°, and can be used more effectively when constraints on heating and deceleration rates are applied. A typical assumption of aerocruise maneuvers, that thrust be opposite of drag proved to not be the optimal solution. Optimal thrust angle solutions tend to guide the thrust vector in the direction of the atmospheric turn, and approximately 10° in the direction of lift. This research shows that thrust vectoring could be utilized in trans-atmospheric vehicle (TAV) design to increase the inclination change during an atmospheric maneuver. In addition, various vehicle parameter changes are studied and their results analyzed for the purpose of TAV design. Compared to the exo-atmospheric plane change the thrust vectoring aerocruise grants an additional 28.3° of inclination change; a ∆V savings equivalent to 3.67 km/s.

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