Space Rider: the ESA’s drone-shuttle

Space Rider

Space Rider is the small Shuttle of the ESA (the european space agency) which is able to bring experiments in orbit and to bring them back on Earth. The drone-shuttle is still in a verification phase and the first flight is planned for the 2022.

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Re-usable spacial transport

The project Space Rider focuses to give to Europe a space transport system “integrated, accessible, indipendent and reusable”. By the way the transport of which we are talking about won’t be available for human passengers, but only for experiments in low orbit and microgravity.

Space Rider
The first reusable european spaceship

But the strong suit of the small shuttle is without any doubt the reusability. After brought many projects in orbit and stood there for few months, during which all the experimentations will be made remotely, the spaceship will be able to come back on the Earth. This means that the experiments will come back home safe and the scientists will be able to finish them straight in laboratory and to examinate them closely.

The spaceship has a cargo area of 1200 liters and it can bring in orbit up to 800 kg of instruments and experiments.

It’s been though to make at least 6 travels, all of them at least a couple of months long, which will start in the 2022.

The realization and experimentation phase

For the end of this year the Space Rider spaceship would finish the last verification phase and it will be finally ready to depart toward the space, not before the 2022 though.

Everything started in the 2016, when the ESA proposed to realize a small shuttle able to come back on Earth, by using the landing abilities of the european rockets’ families Ariane and Vega. The project was approved and financed mainly by Italy.

L'interno di Space Rider
Space Rider will keep many experiments inside it

The system mounted on Space Rider is an evolution of the Vega C ‘s one that demonstrated to be able to make almost impeccable missions. Now, after three years, the european drone-shuttle is almost ready to show to the world its real capacities.

Space Rider is europe’s first reusable space transportation vehicle. This fascinating challenge is honing our skills in a range of cutting-edge technologies and this will strengthen our position in this competitive market”, explained Jose Longo, Space Rider Development Program Manager of ESA.

Space Rider’s round trip

Like we said the future flights of Space Rider will be round trips, but how will they work? The spaceship will reach the terrestrial low orbit onboard of a rocket Vega C, but once reached the destination it will be free to move by itself. It will be able to orient and to change the assett, thanks to the thrusters and it will receive energy by the solar panels.

Those are on AVUM+, the last stadium of Space Rider, the only part of the spaceship that won’t be able to come back on Earth. Once ended the mission, infact, AVUM+ will unplug itself and it will burn during its return in the atmosphere.

Space Rider, instead, will slow down itself during its way down and the heat shield will protect it, by avoiding that it burn during its return in the atmosphere. During this phase it will pass from a hypersonic speed to a subsonic one and, once reached the low atmosphere and slowed down enough, it will open its parachute which will let it glide to the ground, where there will be technicians and scientists to wait for it.

The experiments on Space Rider

Like we said our first reusable spaceship won’t have human passengers, but it will only be a laboratory. To use it won’t be only space agencies, but every company or research institute that needs to work in a microgravity environment, even not having space knowledges.

It will demonstrate new technologies for the planet’s observation, it will test the robotic exploration, it will be a laboratory for all the experiments that can’t be made on Earth, because they need microgravity or environments hardly reproducible on the planet.

Space Rider will depart for the first time in the 2022 from the european spaceport of Kourou, in the france Guyana.

This post is also available in: Italiano

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