Flight test of quarter-scale SpacePlane. Credit: AirbusDefenceandSpace/AstriumSAS2014

Flight test of quarter-scale SpacePlane.
Credit: AirbusDefenceandSpace/AstriumSAS2014

Last month, testing of an Airbus Defense and Space’s SpacePlane quarter-scale demonstrator showcased the conditions a full-scale craft would encounter in returning from space after suborbital missions.

Airbus envisions that its business jet-sized SpacePlane – using a combination of jet engines and a rocket engine – can fly to the edge of space hauling passengers and cargo.

The SpacePlane is being built to depart and land using a standard airport runway.

The concept is yet one more vehicle in a growing number of craft that are vying for a projected suborbital market, such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.

High altitude release

Held on May 1-4, the tests involved airlifting the demonstrator from a barge by an AS350 B3e Ecureuil helicopter operated by Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia.

At roughly 3,000 meters above ocean waters, the SpacePlane demonstrator was released. It was then piloted from the barge as it made its return to the ground, ending its flight at sea before being picked up as planned a few hours later.

The quarter-scale demonstrator used in the tests was built in partnership with HOPE Technik and Airbus Group Innovations, the corporate network of research centers of Airbus Group.

Airbus Defense and Space is a new division in Europe, the Airbus Group, formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military.

For videos on the SpacePlane project, go to:



Video Credit: AirbusDefenceandSpace/AstriumSAS2014

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