German Center for Aviation and Aerospace (DLR)began to explore the concept of a reusable launch system, offering a very unusual approach to the landing of the spent first stages of carrier rockets. According to the proposed concept, it is assumed that the first stage of the launch vehicle will be equipped with special wings, which allows it to smoothly descend to the desired height after working. Then the stage will be captured directly in the air by special transport aircraft and literally towed for landing on the ground, according to the portal Space.com.
A little earlier in the German Aerospace Centerstated that the three-year project with the participation of an international team of engineers will consider the development of a "missile trap". The project, called FALCon (hello, Ilon Musk or Formation flight for in-flight Launcher 1st stage Capturing demonstration), will be based on successfully conducted simulation and flight experiments.
Head of Development Martin Sippel from DLR toldSpace.com that the European Commission allocated EUR 2.6 million (about $ 3 million) for the project. If we talk about the development of launch vehicles - the amount is ridiculous, but this is only the beginning of an experiment aimed at verifying the concept's performance, therefore in early tests it is planned to use small unmanned aerial vehicles for demonstration, and not real first-stage missiles.
According to Sippel, the idea of the concept is to catch, notto land the spent rocket stages based on the desire to maximize the payload that will be put into near-earth orbit. As an example, he cites the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from the US company SpaceX. It uses reusable first stages, but to slow them down during descent and landing, the use of additional fuel is required, which generally makes the rocket heavier and at the same time reduces its payload. At the same time, if you equip the rocket with wings, and during a smooth descent, capture it with a trap plane and “tow” to the ground, then in this case you will not have to use additional fuel for landing. Thus, it will be possible to bring more payloads per launch into orbit.
"If we can tow it to full landing,this will save on the mass of fuel to return the rocket to the surface. This will provide not only an economic advantage, but also the performance of the carrier, ”Sippel comments.
According to the head of the FALCon project, the developmentis at an early stage, so the full cost estimate will be made later. If the results of the first tests are successful, the DLR will consider transferring the project to the European Space Agency for further inclusion in the training program for launch systems of a new generation. For example, similarly, about two years ago, the project of the Prometheus reusable rocket engine (Prometheus), the concept of which was proposed by the French Space Agency (CNES), was added to the ESA launch system development program. It is supposed to be used in the new launch vehicle “Arian 6” (the first launch is scheduled for 2020), as well as in other missiles that will come after it.
Sippel adds financial supportThe FALCon project is carried out not only at the expense of the European Commission. The development will be carried out with partners of the German Aerospace Center: the Institute of Mechanical Engineering at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian company Drone Rescue Systems, the Spanish Embention, the German soft2tec, as well as the Von Karman Institute for Hydrodynamics and the Romanian company Astos Solutions.
As Sippel pointed out, more detailed detailsFALCon project will be announced during its development progress. At the same time, the head of the project suggested that, at a minimum, the technological basis for the future first stage would be ready sometime by 2028, and the first real launch vehicles using such reusable first stages could become operational by 2035.
As mentioned above, more specific detailshow all this will work, the authors of the project have not yet reported. But they note that the pick-up technique will consist in using the “aerodynamically controlled device”, which will be equipped with the aircraft, with the help of which it is planned to catch and land the spent first stages. The authors of the project also proposed to use an unmanned autonomous aircraft to meet with waste steps, which will be carried out at an altitude of two to eight kilometers.
The name FALCon, although similar to the name of the rocket from SpaceX, has another source of inspiration, Sipple notes.
"This has nothing to do with the Falcon rocket fromSpacex. FALCon is really a falcon bird. She is able to sharply dive down behind her prey. That is what was our source of inspiration. ”
You can discuss the news in our Telegram-chat.