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Design Approach

K-1 Vehicle
Design Approach
Specs & Performance
Launch Sites
Flight Profile
Launch on Demand
Competitive Pricing


RPK has adopted an innovative design approach that enhances vehicle reliability, significantly reduces costs, and provides flexibility to serve many customers with a range of different requirements. The key aspects of this design approach are summarized below.

Integration of Proven Technologies
The K-1 design incorporates primarily existing technologies that were adapted from other successful aerospace programs and applications. For example, the thoroughly tested, high performance NK-33/43 engines, developed for the Russian Moon program, are used for both the first and second stages. This approach reduces both development cost and technology risk.

Simplicity in Design
The K-1's simple design means only a limited amount of processing is required between flights. For example, the K-1 uses kerosene fuel, requiring far simpler storage and ground handling procedures compared to liquid hydrogen. The K-1's Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) uses clean propellants – ethanol and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellant.

The K-1's simple design is embodied in its Line Replacement Unit (LRU) organization. The vehicle design is oriented around five LRUs, including Structures, Propulsion, Landing, Thermal Protection System, and Avionics. The design minimizes interfaces between LRUs. Faulty hardware units are changed out and replaced with units in inventory, rather than being serviced at the launch site. The units themselves are sent back to contractors for service, reducing impact on launch schedules and eliminating the need for a large launch site infrastructure.

Designed-In Reliability
The K-1's reusability distinguishes it from all launch vehicles currently available. To ensure each K-1 vehicle will fly many times, the K-1's systems are designed to be highly reliable. Vehicle structural components are designed with large factors of safety and a minimum life cycle of 100 flights.

The K-1's avionics and operations have also been designed to stringent reliability requirements. Each stage of the K-1 employs a triplex fault tolerant avionics architecture, including three fault tolerant computers and three military-grade, radiation hardened Embedded Global Positioning System (GPS) / Inertial Navigation System (INS) units with a hardware voter.

RPK will demonstrate hardware reliability through repeated flights of the same components on the same vehicle.

Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHM)
An IVHM system is integrated into both stages of the K-1 vehicle. Similar systems have been installed into late-generation commercial aircraft, like the Boeing 777. After each stage is recovered, the IVHM system is plugged into a ground computer. Telemetry from the IVHM system reports on what systems need to be serviced. The same IVHM system is used to perform the pre-flight checkout. In this manner, the K-1 operations crew can quickly ready the vehicle for another launch.

Autonomous Avionics
The K-1 vehicle is completely autonomous from before liftoff until landing, eliminating the expense and complications of elaborate telemetry, communications, and supporting ground infrastructure.

Horizontal Processing
Both stages of the K-1 are processed horizontally, minimizing handling of stages. Pioneered by the Soviet space program, horizontal processing significantly reduces vehicle processing time and also reduces the amount of required infrastructure. Key components can be accessed through the ends of the vehicle stages. The stages are mounted on pallets and aligned on rails that lead straight to the launch stand. To mate the stages and the Payload Module, the pallets holding the stages are pushed together and interfaces connected.

Dedicated Launch Site
Spaceport Woomera is located in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), a 127,000 square kilometer region in the desert of South Australia. RPK has leased approximately 30 square kilometers from the Australian Commonwealth for exclusive use as the K-1 launch site. This gives RPK a tremendous advantage over many other launch service providers, who must schedule their launch activities around the activities of other companies sharing the same site. Spaceport Woomera also has very favorable and predictable weather for launch activities. A second launch site planned for Nevada USA has similar benefits.

Extensive Use Of Simulation
The K-1's guidance and control design is being extensively tested through simulation with hardware-in-the-loop at Draper Laboratory. Actual flight hardware has been tested and will continue to be tested at Draper prior to installation in the K-1 vehicle. Brassboards are used in place of flight hardware for longer lead items until those units become available. RPK's verification strategy assures reliable and safe operation of the K-1.

RPK's design approach is intended to produce simplicity and economy in operations. We expect that these design principles will enable us to conduct a high rate of launches with our K-1 vehicle fleet, achieve a nine-day turnaround for each vehicle, and significantly reduce the price of space access.