The StarBooster™ project explores the concept of remotely controlled, fixed wing, flyable booster rockets that exercise a vertical launch followed by aircraft flight and horizontal landing. The Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) application is a fully reusable first stage booster. The first stage RLV lifts a second stage and payload to orbit before flying horizontally back to earth for a runway landing. The rockets have very short turn around times and give access to space a less expensive alternative to expendable launch vehicles and the space shuttle. RLV’s represent an idea whose time has come, and CPSS is helping to demonstrate one vision of the future. The vision comes from Starcraft Boosters, Inc., which has designed this completely reusable first stage booster for taking payloads to space. The booster lifts expendable upper stages and payloads to a staging point, then drops off and does a glideback or fly-back to a runway using jet power. Researchers at NASA Langley Research Center are analyzing various configurations of RLV’s and were interested in seeing a small scale flight demonstration of the unique StarBooster™ configuration. Cal Poly had just the right high power rocket and radio control experience to take on the project.

The StarBooster™ configuration that CPSS originally used for its subscale demonstrator testing is shown here. The intent of the project is concept validation and data collection during flight that will aid in design and analysis of the full-scale vehicle. The subsonic rocket demonstrators have a conventional vertical launch, and then as the rocket begins its descent after its peak altitude, an R/C control system is used to fly the rocket as a glider to a controlled landing.