Preliminary Study Using Forward Reaction Control System Jets During Space Shuttle Entry Conference Paper uri icon


  • Failure or degradation of the flight control system, or hull damage, can lead to loss of vehicle control during entry. Possible failure scenarios are debris impact and wing damage that could result in a large aerodynamic asymmetry which cannot be trimmed out without additional yaw control. Currently the space shuttle uses aerodynamic control surfaces and Reaction Control System jets to control attitude. The forward jets are used for orbital maneuvering only, while the aft jets are used for yaw control during entry. This paper develops a controller for using the forward reaction control system jets as an additional control during entry, and assesses its value and feasibility during failure situations. Forward-aft jet blending logic is created, and implemented on a simplified model of the space shuttle entry flight control system. The model is validated and verified on the nonlinear, six degree-of-freedom Shuttle Engineering Simulator. A rudimentary human factors study was undertaken using the forward cockpit simulator at Johnson Space Center, to assess flying qualities of the new system and pilot workload. Results presented in the paper show that the combination of forward and aft jets provides useful additional yaw control, in addition to potential fuel savings and the ability to balance the use of the fuel in the forward and aft tanks to meet availability constraints of both forward and aft fuel tanks. Piloted simulation studies indicated that using both sets of jets while flying a damaged space shuttle reduces pilot workload, and makes the vehicle more responsive.

name of conference

  • AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference and Exhibit

published proceedings

  • AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference and Exhibit

author list (cited authors)

  • Restrepo, C., & Valasek, J.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Restrepo, Carolina||Valasek, John

publication date

  • August 2006