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ESA Gives Us a Glimpse of its Future Space Exploration Plans with a Cool New Video

Discussion in 'Astronomy and Space News' started by Universe Today, Jan 5, 2024.

ESA Gives Us a Glimpse of its Future Space Exploration Plans with a Cool New Video

Started by Universe Today on Jan 5, 2024 at 5:42 PM

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  1. Universe Today

    Universe Today New Member

    Sep 2, 2016
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    ESA Gives Us a Glimpse of its Future Space Exploration Plans with a Cool New Video
    by Matt Williams

    The European Space Agency (ESA) has made incredible contributions to space exploration and space-based science. Last year, the agency launched the Euclid space telescope, which will survey the Universe back to 3 billion years after the Big Bang to measure cosmic expansion and the influence of Dark Energy. After more than a decade of development, the Ariane 6 launch vehicle conducted its first full-scale dress rehearsal, which included an engine fire test. In a recent video, the ESA showcased its plans for the future, which include some new launch vehicles and engine technology.

    As the ESA describes it in the statement accompanying the video’s release, “brand-new rockets are set to take flight, some reusable, some carbon-neutral, with hybrid propulsion, two and three stages, small, large, crewed and uncrewed, to Earth orbit and deep space, the journey continues.” The video provides a rundown of the technologies the ESA has in the works, which includes footage of hot fire tests and other milestones being accomplished at ESA facilities and those of their commercial partners.

    Upon review of these new concepts and technologies, some priorities become apparent. Looking to the next decade and beyond, the ESA is committed to ensuring independence in design, manufacture, and launch capabilities. They are also pursuing reusable rocket technology for both engines and launch vehicles, reducing the carbon footprint of spaceflight and servicing the commercial space sector (especially where constellations of small satellites are concerned).

    In-House Assembly

    SPECTRUM: This two-stage orbital launch vehicle, developed by Isar Aerospace, is specifically designed for small and medium satellites. The vehicle is manufactured at the Isar facility to allow for flexibility with the design and mission profiles. Spectrum has nine ISAR Aquila engines on its first stage and a single Aquila on its second. These engines rely on a combination of liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid propane fuel. The rocket can reportedly transport 1000 kg (2200 lbs) to LEO and 700 kg (~1545 lbs) to Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

    Space Rider: This reusable uncrewed robotic laboratory, currently being developed by the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), Switzerland, and the Portuguese Space Agency, will allow for technology demonstrations and research in pharmaceutics, biomedicine, biology, and physical science. It will be launched to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) using the new four-stage Vega-C, where it will remain for up to two months conducting experiments within its cargo bay. At the end of its mission, it will return to Earth and land on a runway to be refurbished for its next flight.

    MIURA-1: Next up is the suborbital launch vehicle fully designed and developed in-house by Spanish aerospace provider PLD Space. Designed for microgravity research, this rocket can transport up to four experiments to space and return them to Earth, with a total payload capacity of 100 kg (220 lbs). The vehicle relies on a single TEPREL-B liquid bipropellant engine that burns kerosene and LOX propellant.

    RFA One: This 3-stage rocket is another launch vehicle entirely developed in-house by Austrian aerospace company Rocket Factory Augsburg. The first stage relies on nine Helix ORSC engines optimized for sea level that rely on LOX and RP1 fuel and are equipped with thrust-vector control (TVC). The second stage relies on a single Helix Vac engine built in-house using additive manufacturing. The launch system also has a Redshift Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) that ensures accurate delivery to the desired orbit, with payloads of 1300 kg (2866 lbs) to SSO and 300 kg (660 lbs) to a Lunar Transfer Orbit (LTO).

    Susie with cargo bay open – @ArianeGroup

    Prometheus and Themis: Next up is the Prometheus engine and Themis launch stage, both courtesy of ArianeGroup. The former is being developed as part of an ESA program in collaboration with the French Space Agency (CNES) with support from the German Aerospace Agency (DLR). This low-cost, potentially reusable engine runs on LOX and liquid methane and will serve as a precursor for next-generation European launchers used in the post-2030 time frame. Similarly, Themis is an ESA rocket prototype and demonstrator that will test retrieval and reuse technologies.

    SUSIE: Short for Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration, SUSIE is a reusable upper stage concept capable of autonomously transporting cargo to LEO or performing crewed missions with up to 5 astronauts. ArianeGroup is currently developing the vehicle to be launched with the Ariane 6 rocket on future ESA missions.


    M10 Engine: This engine is under development by a consortium led by the Italian space propulsion company Avio with the help of commercial partners from Belgium, Czechia, Switzerland, France, Austria, and Romania. The M10 will be Europe’s first LOX/methane engine and stage that will help pave the way for next-generation launchers (like the Vega-E), thus ensuring increased competitiveness by European small launchers.

    SL1: The Small Launcher-1 is being developed by HyImpulse, a German aerospace company specializing in hybrid propulsion. The three-stage smallsat launch vehicle is equipped with twelve hybrid rocket motors that rely on a combination of LOX and Paraffin wax, a low-cost option that allows for greater safety and flexible launch operations. The SL1 will be the first European launch vehicle capable of launching satellites with a payload of up to 500 kg (1100 lbs) to dedicated Earth orbits.

    Green Technology

    Orbex Prime: This two-stage launch system is the work of Orbex, a UK-based orbital launch services company specializing in low-carbon, high-performance micro-launch vehicles. This two-stage micro-launcher is carbon-neutral, relying on bio-liquid natural gas (BioLPG) to power its seven engines. Most of its propulsion subsystem is built using additive manufacturing (3D printing), while the main structure and tanks are composed of carbon fiber/graphene composites. With a payload capacity of 180 kg (~400 lbs), this micro-launcher will service the growing small satellite (smallsat) market.

    XL: Developed by UK-based launch vehicle manufacturer Skyrora, the XL is a three-stage, light-class launch vehicle intended to send payloads to SSO or Polar Orbit. Powering the first and second stages are nine and one Skyforce engines (respectively) that run on LOX and a kerosene fuel made from waste plastic (Ecosene).

    These concepts align with several emerging trends, cutting-edge technologies, and priorities that characterize the modern space age. In addition to reducing costs and increasing access to space, there is the growing role of commercial space and the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors. On top of that, there are significant concerns that so many launches per year will mean more emissions, thus significantly contributing to climate change – hence the need for carbon-neutral manufacturing and fuel options.

    Check out the full video below:

    Further Reading: ESA

    The post ESA Gives Us a Glimpse of its Future Space Exploration Plans with a Cool New Video appeared first on Universe Today.

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