Leicester University joins space race

Engineers at the University of Leicester have been called-upon to develop cutting-edge technology for the next generation of space shuttles.

A team led by Dr Declan Bates, a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering, will be involved in developing methods that could be used to design flight control systems on future launch vehicles.

The Leicester engineers are part of an international consortium that has won €300K from the European Space Agency. They will work with researchers from the Technical University of Delft in Holland and the Spanish advanced technology company DEIMOS Space.

Dr Bates said: ‘This major research grant is for us to develop and evaluate advanced flight control algorithms for future reusable launch vehicles, which will replace the Ariane-5 generation of launch systems over the next 10-15 years.

‘These vehicles, which are essentially next generation space-shuttles, will be able to ferry astronauts and satellites into space and then return to earth, using fully automated guidance, navigation and control systems. The main focus of the research project is on the development of flight control algorithms using a particular branch of Robust Control Theory, called Linear Parameter Varying Control.

‘This approach to controller design allows flight control laws to be automatically scheduled over the vehicle’s trajectory, from hypersonic speeds in deep space, through atmospheric re-entry to the low-speed landing phase.’