ESA moves forward on building its own reusable X-37B

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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.



  • wodun

    Hmm, wasn’t Sierra Nevada marketing Dreamcahser to ESA?

  • Tom Billings

    “Hmm, wasn’t Sierra Nevada marketing Dreamcahser to ESA?”

    Yes, but it is American, and as long as ITAR is a problem, it cannot be sold outright. Add in the ESA’s equivalents to Richard Shelby scattered around Europe, and Dream Chaser will be looked at as just a starter set, and possibly a back-up.

  • wodun

    Not sure about what to think about selling a vehicle. It would be like SpaceX selling ESA a Falcon 9 rather than just selling them a launch. Would there be any advantage to ESA building rather than buying? I think so but probably not a market advantage. They might mandate ESA countries patronage their products, which would be similar to ITAR restrictions.

  • Jay

    I read the book “Spaceplane Hermes” by Luc van den Abeelen, and I remembered the author wrote about the lack of commitment (funding) of some of the ESA countries to build the Hermes shuttle. ESA is reviewing the Space Rider design but do they have the money to build it?

  • pzatchok

    Selling a craft very similar to the X-37 to the ESA should not be a problem.
    The problem would be the engines and electronics.

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