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Successful launch of T-Minus DART test vehicle TV-02

Posted: May 24, 2016

On 05-20-2016, T-Minus Engineering B.V. has successfully launched the second test vehicle of the T-Minus DART: TV-02. No anomalies occurred, the dart and payload were recovered quickly and good flight dynamics data were retrieved from the on-board storage.


Goals of the TV-02 test flight were:

  • To demonstrate compatibility with the helical launch rail and show that this is an effective way to stabilize the flight
  • To obtain high resolution data on flight dynamics
  • To demonstrate the newly developed, non-pyrotechnic payload deployment mechanism
  • Helical launch rail borrowed from DLR-MORABA, mounted on T-Minus mobile launcher

    During the earlier flight of TV-01, pitch-roll coupling occurred, causing a coning effect and energy bleed-off. As a solution to this problem it was decided to actively spin up the rocket by means of a helical launch rail, as was done on the Viper rocket system. TV-02 was therefore launched from a rail that was borrowed from DLR MORABA, and mounted on the T-Minus mobile launcher.

    DART test vehicle TV-02

    The TV-02 vehicle itself is shape representative for the final T-Minus DART vehicle, but contains a smaller motor in order to reduce the apogee altitude. This was done to comply with the limitations of the Dutch artillery test range.

    On board the TV-02 test vehicle was a payload, containing accelerometers, gyros and magnetometers for all three body axes, as well as a GPS receiver, a telemetry transmitter and on-board data storage.

    The payload was ejected from the dart at apogee by means of a newly designed, non-pyrotechnic deployment system. A parachute was added in order to slow down the descent, such that the dart could be retrieved and analysed for possible damage. At 10:28, the launch button was pushed and the rocket lifted off in a cloud of exhaust smoke.

    Payload of TV-02 Liftoff of TV-02

    The ascent was very smooth, indicating that the active spin-up by the launch rail was effective in stabilizing the rocket. Before motor burnout, the rocket disappeared in the low cloud cover. The payload design was such that a telemetry signal would only be received after payload deployment. The telemetry stream started 22 seconds into the flight, confirming that the payload separation was successful and therefore the non-pyrotechnic deployment system had functioned nominally.

    Good correspondence between predicted and actual impact point

    Later on, the signal disappeared because it was blocked by a hill the rocket had landed behind. After relocation of the mobile ground station, the signal was reacquired and a GPS position with the impact point of the dart was obtained. The dart as well as the booster were retrieved quickly afterwards. The point of impact corresponded well with the location predicted with the trajectory simulation, confirming a nominal flight. The high-resolution flight data collection was successful, and analysis shows that the flight was very smooth, and pitch-roll coupling was hardly present.

    This very successful test flight marks another milestone in the development of the T-Minus DART. More tests are planned to expand the flight envelope, and work towards the completion of the final product.

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