The Aerospace Corporation Uses Loci/CHEM to Prove Staggered Engine Start Theory

Those watching a Delta IV Heavy vehicle launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in January 2011 noticed something was not quite right when a fireball engulfed the rocket during liftoff, setting insulation on fire as the launch vehicle cleared the tower. This was the first Delta IV Heavy launch out of Vandenberg, and the fireball took everyone by surprise.

“When we launch these rockets, failure is very costly,” said Dr. Ejike Ndefo, director, Fluid Mechanics Department at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA. “The burning insulation stayed on fire for a very long time. That was the first time we had seen this behavior.”

Although the launch went off without any further complications, it was a problem that needed to be solved to prevent a repeat during the next Vandenberg Delta IV Heavy launch.

To understand how Loci/CHEM was used by Dr. Jin Wook Lee of the Aerospace Corporation to analyze the launch scenario and to design a new staggered engine start approach to mitigate the fireball, read the full article by Heather Golden.  The article also appears on the Aerospace Corporation website.