ATLANTA, GA, March 4, 2014 –Terminal Velocity Aerospace, LLC (TVA) has been awarded a contract by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) for development of a prototype small payload return capsule. Designed as a high-altitude drop test article, the prototype will demonstrate mission-enabling communications technologies and verify integrated performance, including functionality of its parachute recovery system. This effort is directly in alignment with TVA’s plan to develop a small reentry device (RED), called RED-4U, capable of returning the payload mass and volume equivalent of four CubeSats, commonly referred to in units of “U.”
“We are excited to have this opportunity to advance a set of technologies that have broad applicability to Earth return vehicles in general, and are in the critical path for development of our RED-4U device,” said Terminal Velocity CEO Dominic DePasquale. “Analogous to the new paradigm exemplified by nano- and micro-satellites, the RED-4U small payload return vehicle will allow for high frequency utilization of the space microgravity environment in a cost effective manner.”
Development of the prototype and its subsequent suborbital flight test will demonstrate two low-cost communications and tracking technologies, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Iridium, in flight conditions representative of an Earth entry, descent, and landing application. Use of these widely available communications systems for the application of Earth entry have the potential to significantly reduce operational complexity and cost. The effort will also demonstrate the ability to transmit communications signals through a new formulation of Silica-based conformal thermal protection system materials developed at NASA Ames Research Center. These materials are particularly attractive for small Earth entry vehicles because their manufacturability and expected radio-frequency transparency properties simplify mission and flight system design.
TVA is partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for the space-capable ADSB aspect of the development effort, and with Parachute Systems Design, LLC for the parachute. Additional support is provided by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation for testing and verification of ADS-B.