Europe is behind in reusable rockets, but the project is moving forward: “The recently completed tests of two propellant tanks marked a first technological milestone.” The wait will remain long, as full flight tests are expected in 2025.
While Ariane 6 won’t take off for the first time until next year, Europe is actively preparing the sequel and, in particular, a reusable launcher concept. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is envious; Elon Musk and ArianeGroup’s company are not alone in this niche: Blue Origin and Rocket Lab want to do the same.
SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab … and Europe in all this?
If Jeff Bezos’s company already makes round trips in space with his New Shepard, he is preparing to spend the second with New Glenn (first flight in late 2022). Rocket Lab is already sending satellites into space and has confirmed that it will try, during its next launch, to recover its first stage in flight using a… helicopter!
These three companies are American, what about Europe? Skepticism was generally the order of the day at the beginning of SpaceX tests, but attitudes have changed a lot since Elon Musk’s company started up.
The reusable rocket project won out over the European Space Agency (ESA). At the moment, it takes the form of a Themis demonstrator and a new Prometheus engine. The first flight is for 2022, with only small “jumps”. We will have to wait until 2025 for a full test, 2030 for commercial launches.
Therefore, Europe is ten years behind SpaceX, which has been recovering from the first floors since April 2016.
ESA wants to go fast …
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