European Space Agency’s new semi-reusable rocket launcher, the Air Launch space Transportation using an Automated aircraft and an Innovative Rocket (ALTAIR) completed testing in Kourou, Guiana Space Centre, France, on Saturday.
“The experimental aircraft Eole took off Saturday from the Guiana Space Center carrying with it the replica of an airborne rocket,” AFP reported.
The ALTAIR Project launched in 2015 under the European Union H2020 research and innovation program, had the goal of demonstrating the industrial practicality of a launcher for 50 to 150 kg satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) altitudes between 400 and 1,000 kilometers.
ALTAIR will use a semi‐reusable “air launch” system, whose carrier will be a reusable automated aircraft, releasing an expendable launch vehicle at high altitude. The launch system is expected to use environmentally friendly hybrid propulsion, advanced lightweight composite structures and avionics. The architecture of the ground systems will also target cost‐effective operations.
Companies participanting in this endeavour are France’s ONERA that developed the demonstrator “Eole,” French Space Agency (CNES) and French company Bertin Technologies, Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace, GTD Sistemas de Informacion of Spain, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, NAMMO Raufoss in Norway, and SpaceTec Partners of Belgium.