Feeds

Europe space shuttle passes first test

Lands safely

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The European Space Agency (ESA) has succesfully landed its prototype unmanned shuttle, Phoenix. The ESA hopes Phoenix will halve the cost of commercial satellite launches, and prove a useful money spinner for the agency.

The test flight took place in Sweden this Saturday. Phoenix, seven metres long and with a wingspan of four metres, was dropped from a helicopter from a height of 2,400m for its 90-second glide to the landing runway. More test flights are to come, with new and tricky challenges for Phoenix, such as changing direction, and getting dropped at funny angles. Phoenix is a test vehicle for landing without humans: it uses a combination of radar, GPS data, and laser altimeters to navigate, as well sensors checking pressure and speed.

Phoenix is one of a raft of proposals for a reusable launch vehicle (RLV), New Scientist reports. The only one currently in operation is NASA's Space Shuttle, an expensive old bird, and set for the scrap heap in just six years.

Shuttle is also no good for satellite launches, and it is this gap in the market that Phoenix could fill. Current launch costs stand at a not-to-be-sniffed-at $15,000 per kg of payload. Imagine the excess luggage bill. Phoenix's designers at EADS Space Transportation reckon on halving the price, if all goes well.

The grown-up, fully operational version of Phoenix, tentatively named Hopper, would fly to a height of 130km before firing its payload into orbit on an expendable rocket. But first it will have to make it through the tests. The next target is dropping the craft from 25km. The ESA aims to do this within three years. ®

Related stories

Beagle 2 was 'poorly managed'
Rosetta space-bound at third attempt
Galileo satellite project under threat?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.