Space Rider contracts signed, part I: Thales Alenia Space
(09 Dec 2020) Thales Alenia Space and AVIO as co-contractor have signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the development of the automated reusable Space Rider transportation system, designed for deployment by the new Vega C light launcher into low Earth orbit (LEO). The total worth of the contract is €167 million.
Space Rider is Europe's solution for its reusable end-to-end integrated space transportation system for unmanned missions and for routine access and return from low orbit. It will be used to transport a variety of payloads into different low Earth orbit (LEO) altitudes and inclinations.
Designed as a free-flying orbital platform, Space Rider is capable of remaining two months in orbit, safely re-entering the atmosphere and landing on the ground with a precision of 150 metres. It can be recovered along with its payload, refurbished, and reused for up to six missions.
Leading a consortium of European manufacturers, research centers and universities, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the development of the reentry module (RM), the most challenging of the project derived from the IXV, experimental space shuttle made in Italy with the strong support from the Italian space agency ASI and tested in 2015. AVIO is in charge of the propulsions system and the expendable service module. Space Rider will be launched into space aboard the Vega C launcher in 2023, developed by AVIO for the European Space Agency.
The Space Rider system's overall length is 9.7 m; it records 2,430 kg wet mass and can accommodate up to 600 kg of payload inside a 1.2 cubic meter cargo bay. The re-entry vehicle will reach Mach 28 speed at 90 km of altitude, and sustain maximum temperature of 1700 K at the nose heat stagnation; subsonic parachute will open at 16 km altitude at around 0.73 Mach decelerating the vehicle down to 50 m/s; final part of the descent is under parafoil which has the function of energy management and aero brake (flare manoeuvre) to limit the landing run after touch down.
Two Space Rider landing sites are viable: Kourou in French Guiana and Santa Maria in the Azores archipelago (Portugal). Kourou is considered as the primary landing site because it allows maximum mission performance while Santa Maria is considered as the secondary landing site, suitable for high altitude inclination orbits.
Activities for the preparation of these landing sites will start soon. This is to ensure the timely compliance of the activities with the general planning of the programme.
ESA has also started to share with several potential customers the technical details of the accommodation for payloads on the first flight of Space Rider. The payloads selection will be performed quite soon within the first quarter of 2021.
Reference: Thales Alenia Space PR, ESA PR