The spacecraft is damn expensive. Tens of years are required to design, test and build a working prototype. And again, unlike modules, which return the crew on solid ground, the spacecraft is lost in space during the first and last of his mission.
Why not create a spacecraft that can return to Earth and perform one mission after another?
In 1933, German scientist Eugene Sanger invented the first concept of flying spacecraft, like aircraft. Within a few decades, these concepts moved to America. In 1959 and for much of the 1960s years, NASA and the US air force (USAF), through the work of Sanger, launched its experimental X-15. He did not take off like a rocket or a plane — it was dropped from a US air force bomber, the B-52. After resetting the X-15 could use their rocket engines to reach height, after which began the space (if it was 80.4 per kilometer).
X-15 did not go into orbit, it was purely experimental. But since the 1930-ies it was the only one of its kind, while NASA launched the space Shuttle in 1981. For ten years prior to that, the space Shuttle, said the President of the United States Richard Nixon. This unit was supposed to land like a plane but take off like a rocket. The last Shuttle landed in 2011, and did not realize the dream of endless multiple space flights. Similar to the Shuttle of the Soviet apparatus "Buran" also flew a test mission, but never brought the crew into orbit.
Under the pressure of the space Shuttle NASA and the European space Agency in 1980-ies started to develop its space plane Hermes. He had to weigh 21 tons and take three astronauts and three tons of cargo into orbit at an altitude of 800 kilometers. Hope the latest space, ESA, Space Rider, not so ambitious as Hermes. It will carry 800 kg to a height of 400 kilometers. But it shows that the design of the spacecraft reusable is not over with the cancellation of the Shuttle.
Hermes is also not alone. British defence company BAE Systems, which was then called British Aerospace, has developed the concept of spaceship Hotol. Hotol was supposed to work like an airliner, taking off from and landing on a runway. Hermes, however, had to run on top of a large new rocket ESA Ariane 5.
Hermes and Hotol never left the drawing Board. But in a sense they are alive. Space the last hope of the ESA — the same Space Rider — will also be launched on top of rockets, but smaller — Vega.
Space Rider will take off from French Guiana, but as a robotic orbital laboratory, experiencing, for example, materials. Experimental samples will be open to the space environment when the Space Rider opens the doors of its cargo Bay.
"the First main mission Space Rider will be the demonstration of several technologies for a variety of applications, from Earth observation to robotic research, science, telecommunications, etc. as well As experiments in microgravity," said Giorgio Tumino, programme Manager, Space Rider and Vega.
Although Tomino and his team actively worked on the Space Rider, the ESA, there are other concepts behind the scenes. The British company Reaction Engines designs unmanned Skylon, which will launch satellites and the German space Agency flight dynamic designs, which transports people. But before Space Rider they in orbit will not appear.
Space Rider can enter orbit in the 2020-2021 year, because last year the funding for the project was approved by the 27 member States of ESA. The project unit will be completed in 2019.
Yet during the first flight the machine did not leave the Earth's atmosphere. The full scale model will be displayed in the space in 2019 with helicopters and balloons, to see the landing apparatus. The project uses parafoil that help the machine to slow down.
Atmospheric balloon will be used to verify the full descent and landing on parafoil, and the helicopter will drop Space Rider to check his entering the runway and final landing. NASA had experimented with planting with parafoil in the framework of the project "Gemini" in the 1960-ies, and then, in the early 1990s in the framework of the project SpaceWedge.
Space Rider landed on a runway at one of the Atlantic Islands of the Azores, Santa Maria. Tomino said that the situation of the island in the middle of the ocean makes it a good place for return from orbit.
And although Space Rider will land on the runway, he did not fly with her. As space shuttles, Space Rider will start using the rocket vertically. Buran shuttles and flew side by side with his rocket boosters, but the Space Rider will be on top of the Vega-C. By 2019, Vega-C will be the largest version of the ESA Vega rocket.
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