The S3 air-launch project, which was announced in April 2013 by Swiss Space Systems (S3) Holding SA, has been ended after S3 was formally declared bankrupt by a court in the Swiss canton of Vaud.
The proposed launch system of S3 was to consist of an Airbus A-300 carrier aircraft and a Sub-Orbital Aircraft Reusable (SOAR) shuttle that would carry a combination of upper stage/payload in its cargo compartment. The SOAR stage was designed to reach an altitude of 70-80 km and a speed of 2 km/s using its own liquid-propellant propulsion unit. After reaching the highest point of its sub-orbital trajectory, the upper stage with payload would have been released from the mini-shuttle to carry a small satellite(s), with a mass of up to 250 kg, into an orbit at up to 700 km altitude.
To help contain running costs, the S3 aircraft was also designed to provide parabolic gravity-free flights to paying passengers.
S3, based in Payerne in northern Vaud, went bust due to a lack of funding and its investors have lost the money they put in. The CEO of the firm, Pascal Jaussi, was lucky to survive a violent attack by assailants in August in which he was beaten up and set on fire. It has not been disclosed whether this attack was related to S3’s problems.
Comment by David Todd: As the CST/Seradata World Launcher Report pointed out, this project always faced significant technical and funding obstacles. While the S3 concept did have the technical backing of the French aerospace firm, Dassault Aviation, as well as tried-and-tested Russian engine technology, the system did have a costly complexity. There was simply not enough money to complete the project.