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Rocket recycling – catching rocket stages after launch

Press release


For several years, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been focusing its research activities on developing concepts for making future European launch vehicles as reusable as possible. The aim is to reduce the cost of satellite launches while also improving the environmental compatibility of rockets. This work is being carried out in conjunction with numerous international partners. A key technology for this is the efficient retrieval of rocket stages after launch, so that they can later be re-used for further launches. One option for retrieving them is catching a rocket stage while it is still in the air. DLR is proposing a remarkably innovative procedure for this purpose, which will be further developed and tested together with six international partners as part of the EU's FALCon (Formation flight for in-Air Launcher 1st stage Capturing demonstration) project; this will run for a period of three years from March 2019. The aim is to develop a technical concept for a 'rocket catcher' that is as detailed as possible, and to conduct tests using small demonstrators to test autonomous in-flight capture and towing.

"In the patented in-air capture process, a winged rocket stage is automatically captured by a transport aircraft while still in flight over the sea, and then towed back to the vicinity of its landing site," explains FALCon Project Leader Martin Sippel of the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen. "The stage is released there and lands independently, rather like a glider." This allows the dimensions and starting weight of reusable launch vehicles to be reduced, which, when coupled with reusability, means lower costs. This technology has already been the subject of investigation in numerous simulations and in DLR's first flight experiments with uncrewed light aircraft.

The DLR-led EU research project FALCon is being conducted in conjunction with Drone Rescue Systems, Embention, soft2tec, VKI, the Institute of Mechanics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Astos Solutions Romania as part of the EU Horizon 2020 research programme, under grant number 821953.

Last modified: 25/03/2019 17:28:13
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NASA's challenge to create 3D-printed space habitats nears completion

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Airbus Sells Its Shares In Alestis Aerospace to Aciturri


Airbus has entered into an agreement to sell its shares in Alestis Aerospace to Aciturri, a company headquartered in Miranda de Ebro, Spain.

With this acquisition, Aciturri will become the majority shareholder of Alestis Aerospace, holding 76% of Alestis' shares, in collaboration with SEPI which will maintain its participation with 24% of the new shareholding structure.

"Aciturri's acquisition of Airbus' shares in Alestis reinforces the company's position as a supplier of reference in the aerospace sector and ensures its long-term viability and future," said Alberto Gutierrez, Head of Airbus Spain and Head of Military Aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space.

Alestis Aerospace is an aerostructures supplier and a leader in composite technology, whose activities include the design, development, and manufacturing of structural aerospace components. In 2018, its revenues reached € 283 million and the company has more than 1,600 employees distributed mainly between Spain and Brazil.

Airbus entered into the shareholding structure of Alestis Aerospace in 2014.

The closing of the transaction is subject to certain conditions' precedent that should be completed in the short term.


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Airbus vende sus acciones en Alestis Aerospace a Aciturri


Airbus ha firmado un acuerdo para vender sus acciones en Alestis Aerospace a Aciturri, una empresa que tiene su sede en Miranda de Ebro, en España.

Con esta adquisición, Aciturri se convertirá en el accionista mayoritario de Alestis Aerospace, contando con el 76% de las acciones de Alestis, en colaboración con la SEPI que mantendrá su participación con un 24% de la nueva estructura del accionariado.

"La compra por parte de Aciturri de las acciones de Airbus en Alestis refuerza la posición de la empresa como proveedor de referencia en el sector aeronáutico y garantiza su viabilidad a largo plazo y su futuro", afirmó Alberto Gutiérrez, Head of Airbus Spain y Head of Military Aircraft en Airbus Defence and Space.

Alestis Aerospace es un proveedor de aeroestructuras y un líder en tecnología de materiales compuestos. Sus actividades incluyen el diseño, desarrollo y fabricación de componentes aeronáuticos. En 2018, sus ingresos alcanzaron los 283 millones de euros, y cuenta con más de 1.600 empleados distribuidos principalmente entre España y Brasil.

En 2014, Airbus se sumó a la estructura accionarial de Alestis Aerospace.

El cierre de esta transacción está sujeto a ciertas condiciones previas que deben completarse a corto plazo.


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Airbus prepares Cheops satellite for launch

press release

Airbus Defence and Space has completed construction of the Cheops satellite (Characterising Exoplanet Satellite). The European Space Agency (ESA) recently gave the green light at the Qualification and Acceptance Review. Representatives from ESA, CDTI (Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial) and Airbus explained the mission, the satellite, and the Spanish participation in the Cheops programme at the media event today at Airbus’ Madrid-Barajas site.

Günther Hasinger, Director of Science at ESA; Javier Ponce, Director General of CDTI; and Rafael Rodrigo, Secretary General of Scientific Policy at the Ministry of Science, spoke at the event. They were welcomed by Fernando Varela, Head of Space Systems of Airbus in Spain.

Günther Hasinger from ESA outlined the importance of this satellite: “We are thrilled to be launching CHEOPS later this year. With its ultra-high precision observations of stars that we already know to host exoplanets, the mission will enable a first-step characterisation of the composition and nature of planets beyond our Solar System. CHEOPS is ESA’s first satellite dedicated to exoplanets, paving the way to two more missions in the coming decade and consolidating European leadership in exoplanet science.”

According to CDTI, the importance of Cheops goes beyond discovering new exoplanets. It is the first complete ESA mission to be led by Spain. The leadership demonstrated by Spain in Cheops will have positive effects on future space missions. Its launch comes at a key moment for the country as Seville will host the next ESA Ministerial Council at the end of 2019, which will, without doubt help to consolidate this leadership in space missions.

“Airbus has outstanding expertise in science missions in space and for Cheops we are the prime contractor of the first ESA satellite won by Spain in open competition,” said Fernando Varela, Head of Space Systems of Airbus in Spain. “Now that we can see the launch on the horizon we congratulate all the teams involved for their excellent work. This project consolidates the role of Airbus in Spain as the main satellite manufacturer, and reliable prime contractor of the Spanish space industry.”

Cheops is the first of ESA’s small missions, designed to be ready to fly within five years, and using proven technologies, to pave the way for bigger and more ambitious missions. It will perform an ambitious scientific mission focused on defining the properties of planets orbiting nearby stars. The instrument that will study these exoplanets is a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope supplied by the University of Bern, in Switzerland, which is integrated on Airbus’ highly flexible and compact AstroBus-S platform.

The Airbus AstroBus platform has been used successfully on other missions including: Spot 6 and 7, KazEOSat-1, PeruSat-1, Sentinel 5 Precursor and MetOp Second Generation weather satellites. Cheops weighs approximately 300 kg and is roughly a 1.5m cube.

To build the satellite a group of 24 companies from 11 European countries was selected, seven of these companies are Spanish. The challenges were enormous especially as the flight model had to be built and tested in only two years.

Airbus will use the time before launch to recheck the spacecraft, upload the latest version of software, carry out simulations for the Launch Early Operation Phase manoeuvres and refine the procedures for In Orbit Commissioning. Airbus involvement goes beyond the LEOP and IOC phases and official delivery of the satellite, by providing support for control of the satellite from the ground and maintenance during the operational phase. The Operations and Support Centre that will coordinate the main ground segment operations will be located at INTA (National Institute of Aerospace Technologies) near Madrid.

The Cheops mission will analyse, for at least three and a half years (design lifetime), the exoplanets’ transit when passing in front of their stars. It will operate in a sun-synchronous orbit, at an altitude of 700 km. This will provide stable temperatures and constant illumination of its solar panels, minimising the possibility of stray light reflections on the telescope. The satellite is on schedule for launch between 15 October and 14 November 2019, on board a Soyuz launcher from the European Space Port in Kourou.

Cheops is a precursor mission. Data from the spacecraft will be used to generate a list of the most promising exoplanets in terms of being able to sustain life as we know it. Plato and Ariel are the ESA missions that will go deeper in the study of exoplanets beyond the next decade.

For more information about Cheops please visit: