Space Rider will enable the performance of experiments in Earth’s orbit

Europe will soon have its first mini-shuttle with which to conduct critically important experiments in space and even deliver goods to the ISS.

Americans are expanding their state and private space program by leaps and bounds, which will result in having several different means of transportation for goods and astronauts into orbit before long. Meanwhile, looking at Europe, one might conclude that it is standing still, even though so many rich countries and companies in the private space industry are involved in the European Space Agency.

We can breathe a sigh of relief, however, because we’ve just learned that a project is going to go ahead to change this sad state of affairs and create some serious competition for the Americans. Well, Thales Alenia Space, which is a French-Italian consortium, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency to build and deploy the first European space shuttle called Space Rider, which has been under development for several years as part of the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project.

Recall that the testing of the technology took place in 2015. At that time, the IXV launched from a spaceport in French Guiana. The Vega rocket carried it to an altitude of 320 kilometers above the surface of our planet, and then the shuttle separated from it and flew to an altitude of 430 kilometers under its own power. Its next task was to return to the Earth’s atmosphere, which proceeded at a speed of 7.5 km/s. The IXV’s final challenge was a safe launch in the Pacific Ocean. ESA reported that all planned tasks went successfully.

According to the latest concept, Space Rider will be an independent orbital platform, capable of remaining in orbit for two months, as well as entering the atmosphere independently and landing at sea with its cargo. The machine will resemble the Pentagon’s X-37B mini-shuttle. After quick maintenance work, the European spacecraft will be able to be reused for up to six missions. The shuttle will be designed for both advanced scientific experiments in low orbit and for observations beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

The vehicle will be connected to the AVUM+ service module, which will provide it with electrical power, and will be carried into orbit atop a Vega-C rocket. The Space Rider will have a 1,200-litre research area, and will be able to carry about 800 kilograms of payload on board.

Representatives of the European Space Agency have informed that the project is of great interest to, among others, large pharmaceutical companies which intend to conduct important experiments in space with innovative drugs and methods of fighting the most dangerous diseases plaguing humanity.

Interestingly, the Thales Alenia Space consortium is also involved in work on the construction of the Skylon rocketship, which we recently informed you about (). It will be a reusable spacecraft, capable of taking off into space with its own propulsion, moving in orbit and landing on Earth. It’s safe to say that it will be a much more advanced successor to Space Rider. ESA has revealed that the new machine is expected to be operational as early as 2021.

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