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The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the preliminary design reviews for its reusable mini-shuttle, dubbed Space Rider, that they hope to launch by 2022.
Launched on Vega-C, Space Rider will serve as an uncrewed high-tech space laboratory operating for periods longer than two months in low orbit. It will then re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land, returning its valuable payload to eager engineers and scientists at the landing site. After minimal refurbishment it will be ready for its next mission with new payloads and a new mission.
Essentially this is Europe’s X-37B, but developed for commercial customers rather than the military. In fact, it suggests that Boeing, the builder of X-37B, is missing a major market by not developing its own commercial X-37B.