SpaceX has been capturing headlines all over the place (including here on Techaeris) with their attempts at reusing the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket. The idea is to lower the cost of space launches by reusing at least parts of the rockets needed to launch people/experiments/etc. into orbit. It seems that SpaceX isn’t the only one experimenting with reusable rockets, as Airbus, the French aeronautics company, has recently taken the lid off of Adeline – their own reusable rocket project.
Research on the Adeline – short for Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy – project started over five years ago, as a direct response to the efforts of SpaceX. While the goal of Adeline is still to recover as much of the first stage as possible, the way they’ve gone about it is quite a bit different than SpaceX. Where SpaceX has attempted a controlled descent to land vertically on an ocean platform, Airbus has designed Adeline to land horizontally, similar to an airplane. It stands to reason that Airbus would have significant experience in this sort of design, as that’s been their bread and butter for years.
Adeline has a winged design. While it will still detach from the rest of the rocket (as does the Falcon 9) it will then glide using its wings, and propel itself using two rotary motors. It can then deploy landing gear and land horizontally on a standard runway. While to this point Airbus has only tested scale models of Adeline, they believe that their reusable rocket can save up to 80% of the stage’s important innards – specifically the avionics, the engine, and the propulsion bay. In addition, they feel that their model will require significantly less additional fuel than the SpaceX developed Falcon since Adeline can simply glide in for a landing while the Falcon requires additional thrust to slow its decent. Airbus is ultimately hoping for a 20% to 30% reduction in recurring launch costs with the Adeline system. You can check out the mock up of the Adeline in action in the video below.
Isn’t innovation great? Only a few years ago there was no way to reuse any part of a rocket launched into orbit. Now there is one system that’s very close to working and a new challenger hoping to improve upon the work of the first. Airbus is looking to secure additional government funding for this project in hopes of making it widely available by 2025.
Let us know what you think about Adeline in the comments below or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.Source: Space News