JUN 17, 2015 4:36 PM PDT

ESA Is Developing Its Own Reusable Rocket Technology

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
As SpaceX has been developing and testing its reusable rocket technology, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been watching and apparently thinking that reusable rocket technology is a good idea. For the past few years the ESA has been woking on their own version of a reusable launch system, but they're taking a very different approach. They claim that their design has some real advantages over the SpaceX design, and they may be right.

The bottom stage of the ESA's Adeline reusable launch system will land under its own power.

Following in the tradition of most american rocketry, SpaceX's Falcon 9-R rocket, their current partially reusable design, puts the payload on top of a two stage launch vehicle. The bottom, or booster stage is steerable and landbale in an upright position. This is a very complicated feat to pull off, with very little room for error, and landing an entire half of a rocket, which includes the fuel tank, costs the Falcon 9-R in terms of the weight it can carry and the altitude it can reach with those weights.

After watching the Space Shuttle and the Falcon 9-R, the ESA has decided to take a different approach, a very different approach they call Adeline - short for Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy. The I and the E might be a little bit of a stretch, but...: In any case, the ESA has decided to take all of the really expensive stuff, the avionics, the rocket engine, and the propulsion bay and put them in a bottom stage that's not all that big. They've equipped it with wings and propellers and landing gear, and that's all that they re-use. It's certainly a different approach, and there are definite advantages: Adeline can land on a runway, and because it will be land under power, the ESA can choose the runway, potentially even well into the landing. They could even change the time of the landing if they needed to. And think about it: how valuable are fuel tanks? What's the real value in being able to re-use them?



The list of Adeline design advantages goes on: After the landable stage of Falcon 9-R separates from its second stage, it has to fall for some time through the atmosphere. That's not easy on a rocket motor, which is at the leading edge of the vehicle as it falls back to earth. The Adeline will go straight from booster to winged flight, subjecting it's rocket motor to none of the atmospheric punishment that the Falcon 9-R is forced to withstand. Adeline also has a much smaller penalty on its performance for being reusable than the Falcon 9-R., and because Adeline houses all of its expensive bits in a fairly small reusable lower stage, the ESA will be able to reuse 80 percent of Adeline's economic value - the engine, avionics and propulsion bay. So, is Adeline a better system? It's first launch is scheduled for 2025, so we may have to wait a while to find out.


(Sources: ESA, Space News)
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
NOV 10, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 10, 2019
Mercury to be Visible as it Transits the Sun on Monday
Earthlings are in for some celestial eye candy on Monday, November 11th. Mercury, the smallest of the solar system’s eight planets, is expected to be...
NOV 12, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2019
Did You Miss the Mercury Transit? Here's NASA's Footage
Monday was a particularly exciting day for amateur astronomers. It was the day that the planet Mercury performed a visible transit across the Sun’s s...
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
SpaceX Demos Crew Dragon Launch Escape for NASA
SpaceX is one of two major players in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, an attempt to use third-party space companies to bring crewed space launches ba...
FEB 02, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 02, 2020
NASA Officially Retires the Spitzer Space Telescope
NASA is always sending spacecraft into space to explore the universe around us; be it the close-proximity stellar neighborhood of our own solar system or o...
FEB 11, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 11, 2020
Why China Was Banned from the International Space Station
The International Space Station is just that – a place where international space agencies can work together in an effort to accomplish similar goals:...
FEB 23, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 23, 2020
InSight Will Attempt to Push Down on its Mole Instrument
NASA’s sent its Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to Mars so that it could deploy a sui...
Loading Comments...