Optimal guidance for the space shuttle transition

Robert F. Stengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A guidance method for the space shuttle’s transition from hypersonic entry to subsonic cruising flight is presented. The method evolves from a numerical trajectory optimization technique in which kinetic energy and total energy (per unit weight) replace velocity and time in the dynamic equations. This allows the open end-time problem to be transformed to one of fixed terminal energy. In its ultimate form, "E-Guidance" obtains energy balance (including dynamic-pressure-rate damping) and path length control by angle-of-attack modulation and cross-range control by roll angle modulation. The guidance functions also form the basis for a pilot display of instantaneous maneuver limits and destination. Numerical results illustrate the E-Guidance concept and the optimal trajectories on which it is based.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-179
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1974

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Entry vehicle dynamics’and control
  • Navigation, control, and guidance theory
  • Spacecraft navigation, guidance, and flight-path control systems


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