Rocket launch company ArianeGroup plans to bring astronauts into space aboard “Susie”.
The European rocket launch giant has announced a new upper stage intended to perform crewed and unmanned missions on Arianespace rockets in Earth orbit or even to the moon.
The upper stage is called Susie (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration) and will be mounted on the future Ariane 64 rocket, which the company says will herald fully reusable rockets in years to come.
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As the space community seeks private space stations and lunar missions, ArianeGroup said a flexible, reusable and modular spacecraft would best meet the needs of multiple customers. (Arianespace is the launch entity of ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran.)
“Susie is a fully reusable rocket stage project,” ArianeGroup wrote in a September 16 statement. (opens in a new tab). “It’s capable of going into space and performing many different types of missions there – whether automated or manned – and landing back on Earth.”
The crewed version of Susie would carry up to five astronauts with an abort system designed to operate at any time during the mission. Payload capacity could sag as needed for “essential space missions,” which ArianeGroup says will continue to increase as Nasa and its partners are looking for a crew Artemis program missions to the moon in the coming decade.
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After the missions, Susie would return to Earth for a soft landing and be reused for future flights, as the spacecraft is fully reusable. The various missions it is being considered for include servicing satellites, manufacturing orbital facilities, managing space debris, or sending essential items to astronauts on deep space missions.
“This is a project that relies on all the existing know-how of ArianeGroup and European industry. It is consistent with current or future technological developments in the field of transport and the reuse of space,” said Morena Bernardini, ArianeGroup’s Head of Strategy and Innovation. in the same statement.
The company noted that Susie will be able to use multiple launch vehicles, including the upcoming Ariane 6, which could fly as early as 2023. Susie was designed so that her 60-foot (12-meter) length, as well as her 15-foot (five-meter) in diameter can be adapted to the Ariane 6 launcher.
Going forward, Susie is part of the European Space Agency’s vision of reusable modular launch vehicles as part of the New European Space Transportation Solutions (NESTS) initiative, which aims to build launch vehicles around common building blocks. to save on costs and development.
Depending on mission requirements, ArianeGroup said future missions will fly to space hubs and then to their destination, rather than directly point-to-point.
Susie was unveiled at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris, which runs until Thursday (September 22).