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Avionics for the suborbital flight

(WP5 – Avionics)



Suborbital plane’s avionics are a complex and

critical set of systems, though their study is very

rewarding. They are situated halfway between

the conventional planes we all know about and a

space vehicle like the space shuttle. So far, no

avionics package has been specifically designed

at a large scale for this kind of use.

The defining feature of an hybrid rocket-plane

suborbital vehicle (that we decided to study

specifically) is the fact that it has to face both the

aeronautics regulations and the space

constraints, in particular those related to the

inhospitality of its environment towards


Constraints related to it are mainly of three kinds:

- pressure constraints (pressure level drops with


- temperature constraints (important variations of

temperature throughout the flight).

- radiative constraints (sun is the number one

enemy of space electronics).

Those constraints require suborbital plane’s

electronics to be even more robust. We studied

different methods to protect efficiently (reliability-





components, the wiring as well as the rest of the

suborbital vehicle devices.

Electronics components are coated in an epoxy

resin to protect them from heat

The high level of electronics integration aboard

the suborbital plane (numerous systems coexist

in a relatively small space and work in parallel)

make it necessary for the different devices to be

compatible amongst themselves. We talk about

electromagnetic compatibility.

The second aspect of our study consisted in

choosing the instruments already existing in the

aeronautics field or actually being developed that

would be necessary inside the hybrid suborbital


As an example, we compared different landing

navigation aids (ILS, SBAS) in order to find wich

one fitted best for suborbital flight.

Another particularity of an hybrid rocket-plane

vehicle is the necessity to get through air traffic,

get out, and cross several airways. It has to

communicate at any time with Air Traffic Control

(ATC) and to be visible on their radars. This is

only possible using specific avionics systems

such as a transponder or, in a near future, ADS-


Heavy air traffic the suborbital plane has to get


Suborbital flight and space tourism activities are

just beginning to take shape but large projects

are already in progress, some of them even

reached test stages. Despite constraints implied

by suborbital flight on the technical as well as the

human aspects, it remains fascinating to study in

details and we advise students from engineering,

business schools or from the university to take

part in the Student Aerospace Challenge, to live

an enriching experience at the crossroads of the

aeronautics and space worlds