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European Commission finances recovery solution small launch vehicles

The European Commission under the H2020 program has granted more than three million Euros to a consortium of eight companies. Thus, the group starts developing a novel recovery system for small launch vehicles.

European Commission finances recovery solution small launch vehicles
The RRTB project team.

With the rise of small satellite industry launch vehicles need new solutions to offer a tailored, cost-effective access to space. The space industry took a big leap forward when SpaceX started recovering the first stage of its rockets. By doing this, they decreased launch prices drastically. Currently, reusability is one of the trending topics in the launcher industry. Davide Bonetti from Deimos Space stated in a press release: “One of the major challenges of this project will be to verify the feasibility of the return of the first stage of the rocket. Several missions and configurations will be studied in order to choose the most promising one”.

Eight partners

The Recovery and Return-to-Base (RRTB) project received more than three million Euros from the European Commission’s H2020 program. This is meant to investigate the recovery of the MESO micro launcher. The RRTB consortium, coordinated by Pangea Aerospace, consists of eight partners in the aerospace sector. They come from six different European countries. The RRTB consortium combines the industrial expertise of Thales Alenia Space, Deimos Space, Heron Engineering, TOSEDA and Pangea Aerospace with the research experience of the von Karman Institute, RWTH Aachen and the Technische Universität München. Together, they wish to create a disruptive European recovery technology to reduce the cost of access-to-space.

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Key technologies

The major objective of the project is to validate key technologies for safe and cost-effective recovery. Above that, the reuse of the first stage of a small launch vehicle is of importance. On this, Rasmus Bergström, technical coordinator of the project, stated in a press release: “This landing system uses already existing and proven technology from the Urban Air Mobility and drone sectors, thus reducing the development and production costs”. Xavier Llairó from Pangea Aerospace affirms this in the same press clipping: “To our view, high rate and high component reusability is essential to decrease launch costs in the micro-launcher industry.”

Innovative landing system

First, the project will validate an innovative landing system, incorporating electric ducted fans. This would allow for a soft and precise landing without using the main engine. This way, it’s enabling high component reusability. Secondly, investigations of the atmospheric re-entry of the first stage of the MESO micro launcher will take place. Thirdly, the consortium will design durable and cost-effective solutions for reusable structural design and cryogenic tanks. Admittedly, other European companies and research centres in the context of drone and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) development investigated the technology of electric ducted fans. This was mainly for Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) aircrafts, however, it was never transferred to a space sector. That’s why the experts selecting this project for the European Commission agreed on its technical impact and excellence.