Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Ping Lu


This dissertation focuses on the development of a closed-loop endo-atmospheric ascent guidance algorithm for the 2nd generation reusable launch vehicle. Special attention has been given to the issues that impact on viability, complexity and reliability in on-board implementation. The algorithm is called once every guidance update cycle to recalculate the optimal solution based on the current flight condition, taking into account atmospheric effects and path constraints. This is different from traditional ascent guidance algorithms which operate in a simple open-loop mode inside atmosphere, and later switch to a closed-loop vacuum ascent guidance scheme. The classical finite difference method is shown to be well suited for fast solution of the constrained optimal three-dimensional ascent problem. The initial guesses for the solutions are generated using an analytical vacuum optimal ascent guidance algorithm. Homotopy method is employed to gradually introduce the aerodynamic forces to generate the optimal solution from the optimal vacuum solution. The vehicle chosen for this study is the Lockheed Martin X-33 lifting-body reusable launch vehicle. To verify the algorithm presented in this dissertation, a series of open-loop and closed-loop tests are performed for three different missions. Wind effects are also studied in the closed-loop simulations. For comparison, the solutions for the same missions are also obtained by two independent optimization softwares. The results clearly establish the feasibility of closed-loop endo-atmospheric ascent guidance of rocket-powered launch vehicles. ATO cases are also tested to assess the adaptability of the algorithm to autonomously incorporate the abort modes.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Hongsheng Sun



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

89 pages