Europe develops reusable launch vehicle similar to SpaceX Falcon 9

Last week, the French company ArianeGroup, together with the French space agency CNES, have announced the beginning of the development of a new launch platform, which will form the basis for reusable launch vehicles under the ArianeWorks program. Together with the announcement, Ariane Group has published on its website a video presentation of the launch system. Portal Ars Technica notes that the new launch vehicle is very suspiciously similar to the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from the US company SpaceX.

On the published video, the company showeda start-up demonstrator named Themis. The objective of this project is to develop a multi-engine single-stage rocket with the possibility of vertical take-off and landing near the launch site. According to the source, the rocket will operate on the basis of reusable Prometheus engines, which use a mixture of liquid oxygen and methane as fuel. It is noted that the cost of production of such an engine is only 1 million dollars.

Ars Technica was surprised by howthe Themis launch platform, designed to "demonstrate the revolutionary technology of rocket production," is very similar to the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from SpaceX. Even rocket engines with a load of 100 tons each (it is planned to use three) turned out to be similar in performance with the Merlin 1D engines that are used in the American launch vehicle. The only difference between them, the newspaper notes, is that Merlin 1D uses kerosene instead of methane as fuel.

The promo video shows how to rocket firsttakes off and then lands next to the launch site, using four landing legs. Promo video can be viewed on the official website of the Ariane Group.

A news source notes that Europeanmissile manufacturers are not the first time "borrow" ideas from SpaceX. During last year’s presentation, journalists were not ashamed to ask Jean Marc-Astorg, head of the space launch program of the French space agency, to comment on this. Then they talked about the plans of Ariane and CNES to start developing the “flying stand” of Callisto, which will be used to develop new technologies. The idea to journalists reminded another project. The SpaceX company used the Grasshopper flying model in 2012-2013 to demonstrate vertical landing technologies.

To the question of journalists, Jean-Marc-Astorg directlyHe said that Callisto is indeed a copy of Grasshopper, adding that Chinese missile developers are also building a similar prototype, so they will not torture his conscience if he admits that they have not invented anything new in this regard.

Financing the development of Callisto and Themis demonstrators, of course, is being done, with the support of the governments of the European countries.

Currently, Ariane Group is completingdevelopment of the new launch vehicle Ariane 6, the first launch of which is scheduled for 2020. This launch vehicle will have several options, but officials behind the development project worth 4 billion euros say that the launch vehicle will be able to compete with SpaceX with its Faclon 9 in commercial launches, offering similar costs to the latter.

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