The European Commission finances a disruptive recovery solution for small launch vehicles
With the rise of the small satellite industry launch vehicles need new solutions to offer a tailored and cost-effective access to space. The space industry took a big leap forward when SpaceX started recovering the first stage of its rockets, thus decreasing launch prices drastically. Currently, reusability is one of the trending topics in the launcher industry.
The Recovery and Return-to-Base (RRTB) project received more than €3M from the European Commission’s H2020 program to investigate the recovery of the “MESO” micro launcher. Based on the Barcelona start-up Pangea Aerospace’s initial research the project seeks to validate and further develop this new technology. The RRTB consortium, coordinated by Pangea Aerospace, is composed by 8 experienced partners in the aerospace sector from 6 different European countries.
The Kick-Off meeting of RRTB project took place on February 7th 2020 hosted by Pangea Aerospace in Barcelona.
The major objective of the project is to validate key technologies for safe and cost-effective recovery and reuse of the first stage of a small launch vehicle. At this regard Rasmus Bergström, technical coordinator of the project, stated: “this landing system uses already existing and proven technology from the Urban Air Mobility and drone sectors, thus reducing the development and production costs” and Xavier Llairó from Pangea Aerospace affirms: “To our view, high rate and high component reusability is essential to decrease launch costs in the micro-launcher industry.”
The project will:
- Validate an innovative landing system, incorporating electric ducted fans. This European recovery system would allow a soft and precise landing without using the main engine, enabling high component reusability.
- Investigate the atmospheric re-entry of the first stage of the MESO micro launcher.
- Design of durable and cost-effective solutions for reusable structural design and cryogenic tanks.
The technology of Electric Ducted Fans has been largely investigated by other European companies and research centres in the context of Drone and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) development, mainly for VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircrafts. However, it was never transferred to a space sector. The experts selecting this project for the European Commission agreed on its technical impact and excellence.
Davide Bonetti, from Deimos Space stated: “One of the major challenges of this project will be to verify the feasibility of the return of the first stage of the rocket. Several missions and configurations will be studied in order to choose the most promising one”
The RRTB consortium combines the industrial expertise of Thales Alenia Space, Deimos Space, Heron Engineering, TOSEDA and Pangea Aerospace with the research experience and excellence of the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI), RWTH Aachen and Technische Universität München in order to create a disruptive European recovery technology to reduce the cost of access-to-space.
The von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics will investigate the dynamic and static stability of the first stage during its atmospheric reentry in order to better predict its trajectory.
More information about the project can be found at www.rrtb.eu
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement no. 870340.
Institute of Flight Dynamics: With its main research areas flight controls, sensor data fusion & navigation, flight trajectory optimization, and flight guidance, the Institute of Flight System Dynamics of TUM (TUM-FSD) holds in-depth experience pertaining to flight mechanical design, to both flight performance specification and implementation and to the development of flight control algorithms. The Institute operates a fully instrumented research aircraft, a research flight simulator, a level 5+ flight simulator and multiple UAVs. In addition to its contribution to various national and international research projects (including participations in FP7, H2020, CleanSky and EDA research projects such as RECREATE, INCEPTION, PALAST or NICE, respectively), the institute also cooperates within industry funded projects and other contractual research. The Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen University) with its 260 institutes in nine faculties is the largest university for technical study courses in Germany with more than 45.000 students. During the last five years, the university was nominated by the German Federal Government twice in a row as excellent. It is a member of the national TU9-Aalliance (U9 German Institutes of Technology) which is an association of the nine most prestigious, oldest, and largest Technical Universities in Germany. The Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design (SLA) belongs to the faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the biggest one within the RWTH Aachen University. The faculty contains more than 50 teaching and research facilities as well as currently 63 professorships subserving more than 12,000 students. The institute is focused on teaching and research in the cluster of Aero- and Spacecraft Technology, especially in the field of design and sizing of aerostructures.
• Development of hi-tech polymeric materials (composites, adhesives, elastomers, coatings, foams) modified by tailored nanostructures (organic, inorganic, hybrid) targeted for space, aerospace, military, construction, electronic and medicine industries.
• Small scale production of specialties such as masterbatches (dispersions of nanostructures in selected environment), pre-pregs etc.
The R&D team of TOSEDA has very positive experience working on ESA projects in a cooperation with EU key space industrial companies such as Airbus Defence & Space, EADS CASA Espacio, MT Aerospace and Thales Alenia Space. Further, TOSEDA closely collaborates on domestic and international scene with number of universities, research organizations and recognized chemical companies.