UGS Corp. will supply its NX digital product development software to Rocketplane Kistler Inc. (RPK) for the development of the K-1 launch vehicle, UGS announced.
The K-1 is a fully reusable, two-stage launch vehicle that may one day deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). RPK is developing the vehicle under a $207 million contract from NASA that was awarded through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
The COTS program is intended to demonstrate the viability of alternative space-transportation capabilities in anticipation of procuring commercial space-transportation services after the space shuttle fleet is retired. NASA also awarded a $278 million contract to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for the development of its Dragon, a capsule that will be launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, also under in development. RPK will use NX computer-aided software to design, build and test the K-1 vehicle.
“We’re designing a launch vehicle with tens of thousands of parts to it,” Dave Cochran, RPK’s manager of the K-1 Structures and Cargo Module Program, said. “You need a way ¬– in three dimensions – to be sure it all fits together. The way they used to do it was to build and use actual mock-ups. We’ve been using the predecessors to NX since 1995 or ’96, and we’ll be flying [the K-1] by late 2008.”
Depending on mission requirements, the K-1 will offer two sizes of payload modules: a standard payload module and an extended payload module, providing flexibility between interchangeable payload modules and the ISS cargo module. Cochran said that once the K-1 starts flying, its schedule will begin with a monthly flight to the ISS, expanding soon after to two or three additional monthly flights depending on demand throughout the aerospace market.
“We anticipate that NASA will start flying late in 2008, and we’ll probably start to see as many flights as we can manage,” he said, adding that NASA’s demands through the COTS contract “are quite high.”