Reusable rockets: finally a European project to counter SpaceX and Elon Musk? – 09/19/2022 at 12:34

The aerospace manufacturer ArianeGroup has presented “Susie”, a new rocket stage that can be used in space and return to land on Earth.


ArianeGroup presents its project for a Europe of space that does not yet master reusable technology (AFP / ERIC PIERMONT)

ArianeGroup unveiled on Sunday September 18

a new “fully reusable” rocket upper stage project, which will notably be able to carry out manned missions with a crew of five astronauts,

a first for Europe in space.

The flexible vessel, called Susie, will be able to fly both with an Ariane 6 rocket, whose maiden flight is scheduled for 2023, and with a heavy launcher of the next generation, detailed ArianeGroup, the manufacturer of Ariane launchers, during the Congress. Astronautics International in Paris.

“Fully reusable”, Susie (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration) will be an upper stage that will replace the fairing of the launcher to carry out missions in space and return to land on Earth, specifies ArianeGroup in a press release.

This return will be “smooth, after a high-precision atmospheric re-entry” and a vertical landing. With an “innovative” technology, different from that of the rockets of the American SpaceX: the latter return to Earth immediately after launch, when Susie’s concept provides for a return once the space mission has been carried out, explained to AFP Morena Bernardini, director of strategy and innovation at ArianeGroup.

A European first to compete with SpaceX?

Susie will be able to perform automated freighter missions for transporting cargo and payloads (satellites), “or manned spaceflight with a crew of up to five astronauts.”

It will have a large interior bay of 40 m3, and will be able “to bring back to Earth up to 7 tons of cargo, which is unlike anything that exists today”, added Morena Bernardini. The vehicle will be able to reach lunar orbit and will be able to receive a supply module for astronauts. This project is a first for space Europe, which currently does not master reusable technology and faces fierce competition from launchers from SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company.

Europe also does not have a program to send its astronauts into space and depends on a barter system used so far with the Russians and the Americans.

Faced with the rush for the Moon and the appearance of private players in manned flight, the European space community is campaigning for it to acquire its own means.

In response to these ambitions, ArianeGroup will submit the Susie project to the ministerial meeting of the European Space Agency (ESA), whose 22 member states will meet in November to decide on the budget for the next three years. Susie would complete Thémis, a reusable lower stage technology demonstrator currently under development within the group.

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