Tag Archives: space plane

India announces scheduled to test a prototype space plane

The competition heats up: India’s space agency ISRO has announced that they will test fly a prototype space plane sometime between April and June this year.

The test and prototype both sound very similar to Europe’s IXV prototype space plane, test flown only a few weeks ago.

“Technology Demonstrator winged body vehicle weighing 1.5T will be lofted to a height of 70 km using solid booster, thus attaining five times the speed of sound. Thereafter, it will descend by gliding and splashing down into the sea”, said an official statement. This test flight would demonstrate the Hypersonic aerodynamics characteristics, Avionics system, Thermal protection system, Control system and Mission management.

Both programs also remind me of many similar NASA engineering test programs, most of which ended up as dead ends, with the new technology never applied to actual real world missions. Whether that happens in Europe and India remains the main question. The increasing competition in space should help prevent it, but these are also government-run programs, so their goal has less to do with profit and competition than pork and political maneuvering.

Europe test flies its engineering prototype space plane

The competition heats up: Europe today successfully launched and landed its Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) space plane.

More details here. And here.

As of 9 pm (Eastern) Wednesday the recovery ship was still “hurrying” to reach the ship, which was being held afloat with “balloons.” Update: The spacecraft has been retrieved.

This prototype is not full scale. It is only about 16 feet long, and was built as a testbed. Whether Europe follows up with a full scale version remains completely unknown. I am skeptical, as this program reminds me of many deadend NASA experimental programs like it, used to try out cool engineering technologies as well as provide pork to Congressional districts without any plans to proceed to the real thing. In the case of IXV, the Italians got most of the pork.

Test flight of Europe’s first prototype space plane has been rescheduled

The competition heats up: Preparations have resumed for a February 11 test flight of a European prototype space plane, initially scheduled for November but cancelled at the last minute because managers suddenly discovered its launch path was going to go over land.

The launch trajectory of the IXV space plane on a suborbital trajectory will differ from the Vega rocket’s previous flights, which flew north from the space center with satellites heading for high-inclination polar orbits. The launch of IXV will head east from Vega’s launch pad, and the geometry of the French Guiana coastline means it will fly over land in the first phase of the launch sequence.

Officials said they slightly adjusted the launch track to alleviate the the safety concern.

The four-stage Vega rocket was stacked on the launch pad at the Guiana Space Center, and the IXV spacecraft was about to be fueled with hydrazine maneuvering propellant when officials announced the delay in October. A ship tasked with retrieving the space plane after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean had already left port in Italy when news of the launch delay was released.

I remain suspicious about the cause of the delay in November. How could they not have known about the launch trajectory until the last second? Instead, I suspect it occurred because of politics higher up in ESA related to Italian, German, and French tensions over the future of Arianespace. The Italians are the lead on this space plane project, to the apparent chagrin of the French, who mostly run the launch facility in French Guiana. Moreover, it appears the Italians have generally sided with the Germans against the French in the Ariane 6 design negotiations. I wonder if the delay was instigated by higher management in an effort to influence those negotiations.

Two Russian companies have announced a joint plan to build a suborbital spacecraft for tourism.

The competition heats up: Two Russian companies have announced a joint plan to build a suborbital spacecraft for tourism.

Sounds great, but Clark Lindsey has a very informative review of the history of these announcements from Russia, none of which has ever born fruit.