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Various renderings of Pigeon, a winged re-entry vehicle


An iterative, integrated systems process for spacecraft architecture has been shown to reduce risk while improving efficiency and performance.  Such a process is particularly important for the successful development of human-rated vehicles due to the lower margins and higher emphasis on mission safety and success. The Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) was one of several historically proposed lifeboats for the International Space Station (ISS).  It was developed by NASA in the late 1990s until the program’s cancellation due to budgetary pressures in 2002.

Our research work summarizes the lessons learned from the development process of the CRV in cabin architecture and suggests how they can be applied to the design process and implementation of future passenger spacecraft for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) access, lunar missions and beyond.

Optimizing the integrated vehicle systems design around the crew’s highest performance level should result in considerably reduced risk profiles in all categories. Lessons learned over these decades of human spaceflight have shown that additional benefit can be gained in several areas--operational cost reduction, enhanced schedule performance and increased mission safety and success--by placing ground operations on the list of primary design criteria alongside mission ops. In this paper, we will offer a methodology for achieving this kind of risk mitigation via inherently integrated systems design and engineering, or the “vehicle architecture” approach. Total Integrated Vehicle Efficiency (TIVE) is the central goal of this optimized architecture process.

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