Feeds

European manned spaceflight plan proposed

Get into this cargo container, astronauts told

High performance access to file storage

Strong rumours are circulating regarding plans for a European manned spaceflight capability. A firm announcement is expected later this month, which would outline a scheme based on modifications to the existing "Jules Verne" automated cargo module used to supply the International Space Station.

The 'Jules Verne' ATV seen from the Space Station

Spam in a can capability coming soon?

The BBC reports that German journalists heard of the plans on Tuesday from executives of the German space agency and continental aero-defence colossus EADS. EADS Astrium Space Transportation GmbH is headquartered in Bremen, where the advance briefing was given.

It appears that Astrium engineers are completing details of a plan to upgrade the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) with the various extras it would need to carry humans into space and back again. This wouldn't be as big a deal as it might sound; the ATV is already habitable so that space station astronauts can enter it after docking and retrieve the cargo. As the Beeb notes:

It also has a pressurised section that is "human rated" in the sense that, once docked to the 340km-high station, astronauts can move around inside it safely in just T-shirts.

(NB: The space station is big, but not that big. And we suspect that the crew normally wear pants.)

However, there would need to be proper crew facilities for an independent manned trip, plus heatshield and landing systems for re-entry. The current ATV design is one-way only, intended to be thrown away after each mission.

But it seems that the Astrium boffins in Germany reckon they could fit this sort of gear to an ATV easily enough. Such a ship, shot into space aboard an Ariane lifter, would offer Europe (or anyway the European Space Agency, which isn't quite the same thing*) its own manned spaceflight capability. It wouldn't be a snazzy spaceplane like the long-since cancelled ESA Hermes; but even NASA has given up on such ideas. For now, humanity has largely abandoned reusable ships in favour of simple "spam in a can"** missions where personnel zoom into orbit scattering discarded boosters and drop back down to land by parachute.

The ESA is currently recruiting a new generation of astronauts, as it happens, but under current plans these individuals would only fly into space aboard US or Russian ships.

According to the Beeb report, full details of the manned ATV plans can be expected at the Berlin Air Show later this month. ®

Bootnotes

*The ESA doesn't report to the European Union government in Brussels, having its own governing council and a different list of member states - though it does cooperate closely with the EU. Also, ESA has some transatlantic aspects, most notably via Canadian participation.

**Legendary US test pilot Chuck Yeager of sound-barrier fame is said to have stigmatised early US astronauts with this phrase. He was referring to their perceived lack of any useful control over their ships, in his view demoting them from the status of pilots to mere payload. That said, though the Shuttle does carry a pilot, he or she is generally thought to be heavily dependent on computer assistance.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.