Feeds

European manned spaceship design unveiled in Berlin

Bound to be used - as bargaining tool in Moscow, at least

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Proposals for a European-built manned spacecraft have been formally unveiled in Berlin, with some backing from the German government. Backers of the plan hope to see the European Space Agency (ESA) using Euro technology to carry astronauts into orbit, rather than Russian Soyuz rockets.

As reported previously, the mock-up now on view at the Berlin Air Show is a modified "Jules Verne" Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo module, of the type which has just begun carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Pan-European aerospace company EADS, whose space arm Astrium makes the ATV and the Ariane V heavy-lift rocket, hopes that the ESA will fund a manned Jules Verne and launch it using Ariane boosters.

"For us, this is about opening up options," Astrium's Frank Pohlemann told the BBC yesterday. "Instead of diving into studies and spending the next five or six years with no concrete development, what we propose is to do something now and open up options."

Astrium's proposal is first to modify the ATV so that it can return to Earth safely after a normal uncrewed cargo mission, carrying items down from the ISS. Lack of room for such return trips has recently compelled ISS crew to jettison large pieces of equipment into the Earth's atmosphere.

According to Pohlemann, the Jules Verne could be set up for re-entry by 2013 at a cost of "well below one billion" euros. It could then be converted to a three-seat manned ship by 2017, at a total cost "in the frame of a couple of billion" euros.

To date, when ESA manned missions have not taken advantage of NASA's good offices, Euro astronauts have ridden in Russian Soyuz ships. The ESA-Russia partnership is of long standing, and valuable to Russia - to the point where the permanent ESA delegation in Moscow has full diplomatic status.

However, the reputation of Russian Soyuz landers has suffered badly following two recent re-entries which followed an unplanned, much steeper than usual descent path and subjected astronauts to especially severe G forces. There can't be much doubt that many at the ESA - probably including most of the astronauts - would rather ride in a European or American ship at the moment.

Seeking to offset this perception, the Russian space agency Roskosmos went so far as to announce that the ESA planned a new generation of Euro-Russian ships for manned Moon missions last month - just days after news of the Jules Verne mod plans broke, funnily enough. However, for its part the ESA was more reserved, saying that no decision on joint plans with Russia had been made.

The signs are that the German government at least is willing to offer some support for EADS Astrium's notion of an all-Euro manned ship, though even Germany may not be willing to stump up much cash. Support for manned spaceflight - in terms of actual money, certainly - has always been weak in Europe.

If the Russians can offer a cheap enough deal, they would certainly still seem to be in the running. This will be even more the case if they can sort out the re-entry snags on the Soyuz effectively. In the end, the Astrium ATV blueprint may be used, but as a bargaining tool in Moscow rather than an actual spaceship. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.