The German space Agency offers to catch the rocket exhaust using aircraft

The German centre of aviation and Astronautics (DLR) has begun to explore the concept of space launch system is reusable, offering a rather unusual approach to landing the exhaust of the first stage of the launcher nositelei. According to the proposed concept assumes that the first stage of the rocket will be equipped with special wings that allow it after working gently down to the desired height. Then the stage will be in the air to capture a special transport plane and literally to be towed by landing on the ground, according to the portal Space.com.

Earlier the German aerospace center said that in the three-year project involving an international team of engineers will consider the question of developing a “missile trap”. The project, dubbed FALCon (Hey, Elon Musk or Formation flight for in-Air Launcher 1st stage Capturing demonstration) will be based on successful previously conducted simulation and flight experiments.

Head of development Martin Sippel from DLR said Space.com that the European Commission allocated for the project, 2.6 million euros (about $ 3 million). If to speak about the development of launch vehicles – the amount of ridiculous, but this is only the beginning of the experiment aimed to check the performance of the concept, so in the early tests to demonstrate the plan to use small unmanned aerial vehicles, not a real first stage rocket.

According to Sippola, the idea of the concept to catch, not to put the spent stages of rockets comes from the desire to maximize the payload that will appear in earth orbit. As an example, he cites the booster Falcon 9 from the American company SpaceX. It uses a reusable first stage, but to slow the descent and landing require the use of additional volume of fuel that the overall weight of the rocket and simultaneously reduces its capacity. At the same time, if you equip a missile with wings, and with a smooth descent to capture her plane trap and “tow” on the ground then in that case will not have to use extra fuel for landing. Thus the orbit will be capable of producing more useful goods for the launch.

“If we are able to tow until it is fully seated, it will allow to save on weight of fuel to return the rocket to the surface. This will provide not only economic benefits, but also the performance of the vehicle,” says Sippel.

According to the head of project FALCon, the development is at an early stage, therefore, the assessment of the full cost will be conducted later. If the results of the first test is successful, the DLR will consider the question of the transfer of the project to the European space Agency for inclusion in the training program launch systems a new generation. For example, in a similar way about two years ago in a program to develop a launcher system of the ESA was added to the project with a reusable rocket engine “Prometheus” (Prometheus), the concept of which was proposed by the French space Agency (CNES). It is intended to use in the new carrier rocket “Ariane 6” (first launch planned for 2020), and the other missiles that will come after it.

Sippel adds that the financial support of the project FALCon is not only due to the European Commission. The development will be conducted with partners at the German aerospace center: Institute of mechanical engineering at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian company Drone Rescue Systems, Embention Spanish, German soft2tec and Background Karmanovskaya Institute of hydrodynamics and Romanian company Astos Solutions.

As pointed out by Sippel, more specific details of the project FALCon will be announced in the course of his progress of development. At the same time, the head of the project suggested that at least the technological Foundation for the future the first stage will be done by 2028, and the first real launch vehicles that use such reusable first stage can start to operate by 2035 th.

As mentioned above, more specific details about how it will all work, the authors of the project have not yet reported. But note that the technique of catching would be to use “aerodynamically controlled device”, which will be equipped with the aircraft, which is planned to catch and to land the spent first stage. The sponsors also proposed to use Autonomous drone aircraft to meet exhaust levels, which will be carried out at a height of from two to eight kilometers.

The name FALCon, although similar to the name of the rocket company SpaceX, has another source of inspiration, says Shipley.

“This has nothing to do with the Falcon rocket from SpaceX. FALCon is indeed a bird, a Falcon. She is able to dive down for its prey. It is served as a source for inspiration”.

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