ESA Contracts Astrium to Develop Reusable Upper Stage for Launch Vehicles

[Satellite TODAY 06-24-10] The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded Astrium with a two-year contract to develop key technologies for new reusable upper stages for new launchers, Astrium announced June 23.
    The contract, worth 20 million euros ($24.4 million), will see Astrium attempt to enable the engines of liquid hydrogen- and liquid oxygen-powered cryogenic upper stages to be reignited under an ESA project dubbed CUST (Cryogenic Upper Stage Technologies). The contract was issued under the framework of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program. The work will focus particularly on fuel management in the state of zero gravity and on the thermal insulation of the fuel tanks filled with cryogenic fuel.
    “It will be a huge challenge to develop the technologies needed to supply fuel to the engine after a period of weightlessness, but they are a vital necessity if we want to make more powerful and flexible launch vehicles. A re-ignitable engine is also an essential requirement for certain types of space missions like placing satellites more effectively in their orbits or trajectories towards exotic destinations, like a Lagrangian point or a planet,” Astrium’s CUST Project Director Thomas Renk said in a statement.
    ESA said it selected Astrium because of its experience as Arianespace’s prime industrial contractor for the design and construction of the Ariane 5 rocket’s upper stage.

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