More ESA reusable space transportation system work?

by | Aug 26, 2008 | Seradata News | 3 comments

What is going on at the European Space Agency? An agency always with high hopes but never high enough budgets it is planning a number of studies related to reusable launch vehicles (RLV) and runway landings

While RLVs have featured as a part of ESA’s Future Launcher Preparatory Programme I have personally never believed that a mini-Space Shuttle would be the outcome. Even the Russians with all their experience have never even put the flyback booster Baikal into operation – and that is just for a partially reusable system

Yet studies planned by ESA indicate a readiness to spend hundreds of thousands of euros on technologies that can only be for horizontal landing RLVs

In the meantime ESA is planning for its Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) to be launched by its new Vega rocket around 2010. Its objectives are to be a reentry system demonstration, technology experimentation and technology validation

But it will not land like the Shuttle, the IXV will either land by parachute in the sea or using airbags on land in Sweden’s NEAT test range.

And linked to this flight test is an “advanced reentry flying qualities analysis” that will be benchmarked against the IXV flight.

I am only aware of the German Aerospace Center actually carrying out a spaceplane automatic landing demonstrator with its Phoenix vehicle at NEAT. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency did something similar with its High Speed Flight Demonstration vehicle with the help of French space agency CNES, also over NEAT

But now ESA seems to be preparing for RLV work with plans for at least two research projects whose documentation states that “this activity is currently in the [General Studies programmes] work plan but will only be implemented after confirmation of financial support from delegations. At that time a planned quarter for tender issue will be confirmed and bidders will be able to express their interest in the activity.”

Those delegations are likely to be for ESA’s member states’ ministerial meeting in November when the governments finalise what they are prepared to fund for the next few years

The two existing projects, with this note attached, both have budgets in excess of €500,000 and they are “Avionics architecture for future reusable space transportation systems” and “Integrated vehicle health management system demonstrator”

Another two potentially RLV related ESA projects, without the financial ‘disclaimer’, are called “habitation requirements”, examining man-rated spacecraft rules, and “window design for manned spacecraft,” which is pretty obvious

As for what really will transpire in the years to come, my money is on further work for what is being called the Ariane 5 “Mid-life Evolution”

This is to enhance this commercailly operating rocket’s performance, perhaps to 12,000kg to geostationary orbit and improvements to its upstream manufacturing and assembly processes for the launcher

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Soyuz 2-1a launches Progress MS-23 cargo freighter to ISS

At 1256 GMT on 24 May 2023, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam, Kazakhstan. Aboard was Read more

End of the line: Virgin Orbit’s assets are sold off

The Sir Richard Branson initiated Virgin Orbit project, having been in bankruptcy protection, is now formally at an end with Read more

China launches trio of sats into LEO for two universities

At 0800 GMT on 21 May China successfully launched a Long March 2C (CZ-2C) rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Read more

New orders: Five UAE SAR satellites order goes to Finland’s Iceye

Finland's ICEye firm has been awarded an order to develop and build five synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) equipped satelites for Read more

SpaceX launches five Iridium-NEXT and fifteen OneWeb sats plus a OneWeb test spacecraft called Joey-Sat for its competitors

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Vandenberg, California, USA at 1316 GMT on 20 May 2023. Read more

Blue Origin gets NASA’s vote for second cryogenic lunar lander which will be under much less time pressure than SpaceX

Having lost out in the competition to produce NASA's initial lander for its Human Landing System (HLS) Blue Origin's National Read more

Inmarsat orders three small GEO Inmarsat-8 satellites from newspace manufacturer Swissto12

Inmarsat, - a British GEO operator undergoing a purchase by Viasat - has ordered three GEO satellites from newspace entity, Read more

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink Group 6-3 from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA at 0619 GMT on 19 May Read more




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochina25virgin galacticfalcon 9ULARoscosmosDGAFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 5evaaviation weekspacewalkaressoyuzIGTBeidouawardsInternational Space StationspaceBlue OriginSatellite broadcastingrussiamoonStarlinkCargo Return VehicleRocket LabresearchboeingmarsblogAirbus DSOneWeborionISROimpacthyperbolamarsdelayjaxaspaceshiptwodemocratgoogle lunar prizerocketlunarhypertextobamaEutelsatlaunchVegatourismconstellationbarack obamafiguresSESnorthspaceflightthales alenia spacenode 2fundedRaymond LygoIntelsat2009romeAtlas VExpress MD-2dassault aviationss2Elon MuskLockheed MartinaviationLucy2008wk2sstlukradiotestmissilesuborbitaldocking portexplorationVirgin OrbitinternetAriane 5 ECAChina Manned Space EngineeringSLSsts-122missile defensenewspapercotsgalileospace tourismflight2010Ariane 5Express AMU 1spaceportbuildspace stationaltairNorthrop GrummanElectronshuttleProton Minternational astronautical congressscaled compositesIntelsat 23LauncherOneEuropean Space AgencyCosmoshanleybudgetrulesnew yorksoyuz 2-1aLong March 4CLong March 2D/2Ariane 6shenzhouspace shuttleVietnamatvboldencongressMojaveLong March 2Cnew shepardOrbital ATKGuiana Space CenteriaccnesksclawsSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencyInmarsatLong March 4BILSUS Air ForceprotonTalulah RileyApollodarpaSkylonAstriumlanderpictureeuusaastronautdragonbaselunar landerfiveeventVega CSSLAprilSNCinterview50thSea LaunchfalconWednesdaycustomerlinkLong Marchatlantissuccessor7TelesatSpace InsuranceKuaizhou 1AFalcon 9v1.2 Block 5