Future Launchers

from the European Space Center

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Ideas for cheaper ways of putting satellites into space, using a reusable launch vehicle, are under review by ESA and Europe’s aerospace industry. At present the US Space Shuttle is the only reusable launch vehicle. An unmanned system, taking off and landing horizontally, could be much less costly.

ESA’s Future Launchers Technologies Programme has to judge which of several rival schemes is most likely to be viable, timely and profitable. For example, should oxygen from the air be used to burn the fuel in the initial phase of ascent? Making the right choices will be crucial to safeguarding Europe’s leading role in space launches.