Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Brett A. Newman

Committee Member

Robert L. Ash

Committee Member

Christopher J. Weiland


The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the effectiveness of a space-based laser weapon system for countering a hypersonic glide vehicle. Hypersonic glide vehicles are an emerging type of weapon system which combine the range of ballistic missiles with the maneuverability of cruise missiles. These systems pose a unique threat to military assets not only for their expanded capabilities but also for the lack of an effective defensive countermeasure. Space-based laser weapon systems may offer a solution to this problem. The dynamics of a space-based laser system defending against a hypersonic glide vehicle are modeled first. The governing equations of motion for the space orbital mechanics and the atmospheric flight mechanics of the two objects, assuming point mass three degree of freedom conditions, are defined. Several variables in the engagement model are allowed to vary including initial conditions for true anomaly and right ascension of the ascending node for the space-based laser system and the velocity ratio, angle of attack, and heading about the ground target for the hypersonic glide vehicle. The motion of each object is propagated from the initial condition forward in time from which the relative motion and lasing along the line of sight are analyzed. A predetermined intercept range for the laser is then compared against the flight path of the hypersonic glide vehicle to determine when a successful intercept of the hypersonic glide vehicle occurs. Finally, the solution set for the intercept of the hypersonic glide vehicle by the laser is examined. Results reveal usable solution sets do exist where a space-based laser system could defensively counter a hypersonic glide vehicle attacking a specific ground target.


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