Talk Series: Guidance of the Ariane 4 Launch Vehicle
Date: 8th June 2021
Time: 8pm UTC (London time)
Presenter: Adam Hibberd
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Guidance is one of the most important functions of the on-board flight software for a launch vehicle. It shoulders the task of steering the launcher to the payload satellite’s required orbit. It achieves this by firstly continually calculating the demanded attitude (the required launcher thrust direction) and secondly by sending the final engine cut-off command at just the right time, when the required orbital conditions are satisfied.
But this is not all, Guidance must do all this subject to meeting various design objectives, for instance minimising aerodynamic stress during atmospheric phase, and also steering a course to orbit which minimises the fuel required, thus allowing for maximum payload mass. Furthermore there may be unpredictable deviations from nominal along the way, like for example thrust perturbations.
This is a presentation for a layperson, who is not afraid of a bit of technical detail when presented in a visually entertaining way, which explains just how Ariane 4 Guidance achieved all these objectives using only a small fraction of a 40KB on-board computer, most of which was dedicated to a separate function known as the Autopilot and its associated data.
Adam Hibberd, researcher and software engineer and now also volunteer for the ‘Initiative for Interstellar Studies’ worked on the Ariane 4 project as Guidance expert in the ‘90s.
The explanations will be elucidated by simplified rocket animations, using software developed by Adam using MATLAB.
About the speaker
Adam Hibberd lives in Coventry and has a BSc Joint Honours in Physics and Maths from Keele University. He has worked as a software engineer in the aerospace industry, on the European satellite launch vehicle, Ariane 4 - in particular regard to the Flight Program, its Guidance algorithm, real-time testing and post flight analysis. He currently works as a researcher for the 'Initiative for Interstellar Studies'. He is also a fine pianist and composer, a member of the musical trio 'Superheroes Dream' who have produced a vinyl on the Coventry Tin Angel Record Label.
About the series
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