General Electric and Pratt & Whitney are beginning work with NASA on designs for jet-powered flyback rocket boosters for a second-generation reusable launch vehicle (RLV).

The move is being orchestrated under the Space Launch Initiative and marks a potentially significant step on the road towards an affordable RLV-successor to the Space Shuttle and its reusable solid-rocket boosters. The engine makers are working with the three prime airframe SLI contractors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. They are evaluating concepts powered by four turbofans with a dry thrust of around 20,000lb (90kN) each.

Under the plan, the booster will separate from the RLV at around 200,000ft (61,000m) and Mach 8. At about 40,000ft, itson-board engines will start, allowing it to fly back to the launch site under its own power.

Phase 1 will run until Mayand cover trade studies and risk mitigation. Phase 2 may focus on component tests on off-the-shelf candidate military and civil engines, such as General Electric's F118 and CFM56 and P&W's F100 and PW6000.

Source: Flight International