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Suborbital Rockets | MERC - Miller Engineering & Research Corporation

Suborbital Rockets

Read more about our suborbital rocket engineering history

Miller Engineering & Research Corporation (MERC) has extensive knowledge of the full lifecycle of suborbital rocket missions used in both scientific studies and for missile defense related work. MERC has supported rocket mission for the DoD, NASA, and various commercial entities.  With focus areas ranging from mission planning to parachute recovery systems, igniter housings, to solid rocket motor preparations, MERC core competencies include: flight performance, which includes 6dof modeling; development of aerodynamic derivative coefficients; mass properties tables; determining drag; providing state vector at burn out data; providing post flight performance reports; and providing payload personnel with staging information based on flight performance modeling.

Click on a photo below to view some of our experiences:


Mission Planning

MERC has comprehensive knowledge in mission planning for suborbital rocket operations based on years of working on and assisting with NASA Goddard Sounding Rocket missions.  Effective mission planning requires extensive knowledge of not only the support hardware that supports the mission, but also in-depth knowledge of the instrumentation or science mission being flown. To fully understand and effectively plan requires effective communications with all levels of the relevant supporting and scientific organizations.


Mission Analysis

After a sub-orbital flight has concluded, post flight analysis is provided to evaluate with rigorous scalars what success criteria was met.  This includes flight performance including impact areas apogee and threat space, staging functions, Montecarlo results, mass property actuals and overall mission performance.


Systems Engineering

In the suborbital rocketry industry, flight performance and systems engineering are intricately linked. For high quality flight performance to occur, all systems on the launch vehicle must be known and understood by the flight performance engineer.  Telemetry systems must be understood so that post flight data can be correlated with pre-flight performance modeling. Attitude Control systems must be understood to understand pre-re-entry ridged body dynamics and position state vectors to provide a level of confidence on reentry heating dynamics. All mechanical and mechanical designs must be understood to evaluate protuberances that can be the source of parasitic drag. MERC systems engineering is thorough and comprehensive.


Integration & Test

Integration and test within the sub-orbital rocket program environment requires skill, ingenuity, creativity, and the ability to make informed decisions in real time. The nature of such “skunk works” operations places reliance on highly talented people with years of experience conducting the integration activities. This same talent and expertise can also be applied effectively with the DoD/MDA targets environments.

MERC has this expertise and knowledge gained over 30 years of experience. This mode of application has also been applied effectively within the man-rated attached shuttle payload programs. MERC applies engineering knowledge gained in effective approaches that tailors engineering techniques and analysis to provide cost effective solutions without “gold plating” when it is overkill or not necessary for an effective solution.


Solid Propulsion Engineering

MERC personnel have worked with solid rocket motor manufacturers and propulsion analysts and have provided proposals to increase the performance of a sounding rocket system used in the NASA stable of vehicles, and is currently used as threat targets for the Missile Defense Agency. MERC knowledge of these systems was used by manufacturing companies to propose a segmented motor design that allowed for a “adjustable” performance capability by allowing for addition of, or subtraction of solid rocket motor segments. MERC owns the name of the system called “Harrier ES” which incorporates this design approach. This concept was done jointly with a major motor manufacturer.


Mechanical Design

MERC has designed mechanical structures for sub-orbital payloads and understands the design constraints and the flight loads to consider when formulating design concepts. MERC also is cognizant of instruments and their requirements for outgassing, galvanic, and magnetic issues that can affect instrument performance.


Featured Suborbital Rocket Projects


Featured Suborbital Rocket Customers