The European Space Agency (ESA) is very active in many areas from Earth orbit to robotic exploration of the Solar System. It is also involved in the International Space Station or Artemis program. But the imaginary icing on the space cake is missing – a spaceship of its own.
Various plans and visions have appeared in the past – let’s remember, for example, the never-realized Hermes space shuttle.
In reality, Europe has only had one spacecraft so far – the unmanned ATV flew to the ISS five times between 2008 and 2014 with supplies. The service section for the Orion ship, which will go to the Moon, was created on its foundations. However, Orion is American. And Europe is now fully dependent on cooperation with NASA. Will it change?
At this year’s International Astronautical Congress, the company ArianeGroup presented the concept of a spaceship Susie (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration), which looks a lot like a scaled-down version of SpaceX’s Starship. It is not just a visual similarity, there are more connections.
It was founded in 2015 and is based in France. The owners are Airbus and Safran (each owns 50%). The company has a majority stake in, among others, ArianeSpace, which is behind the Ariane 5 and Vega rockets.
It must be said that it is still only a concept. Similar to the big puddle, political will is needed above all in Europe to transfer an idea from renderings to real reality. Recently, she is a little more inclined to build her own ship than a few years ago.
Susie would launch atop the Ariane 64 rocket, which is a heavier version of the Ariane 6 rocket. The rocket’s first launch is expected to take place next year.
Of course, Susie is not even being developed yet, so if it is created, it is assumed that some other rocket that does not yet exist could carry it later.
The difference compared to the lighter 62 version is only in the addition of two P120 solid propellant boosters, which would be four in the Ariane 64 version. Each contains 142 tons of fuel and develops a thrust of 4,650 kN. For comparison, the central stage alone develops a thrust of 1,370 kN. Ariane 62 can deliver cargo weighing over 10 tons to low orbit, Ariane 64 double that.
Susie is 12 meters long, about a fifth of a Starship. The diameter of the ship should be 5 meters, which is a little more than half compared to the American ship.
Susie could carry up to 7 tons of cargo or five astronauts to orbit and back again. In this case, the cargo space is more reminiscent of the American space shuttle. There should be about 40 cubic meters of space inside.
The method of landing on Earth (or elsewhere?) is more than Starship-like. After passing through the atmosphere, Susie would “straighten up” and land with the help of the engines in a vertical position.
In addition to flights to the Earth’s orbit, flights to the Gateway station in the moon’s cislunar orbit are also planned. In that case, Susie would have her own service section with an additional drive.
Susie is a spaceship, but maybe don’t call her that
Throughout the name of the ship, the connection “Upper Stage” occurs. Basically, it is not supposed to be a spacecraft, but rather an extension of the rocket. The question is, should we take it that way, since the animations show the Ariane 64 rocket with its own upper stage and Susie just above it. In this regard, it is much more the upper stage of the Starship, which directly follows the first stage of the rocket (Super Heavy).
Artemis Live: Man’s Return to the Moon
Artemis is NASA’s space program, whose mission is to restore human flights to the Moon. A Gateway station will be built in lunar orbit. The crew will be transported to the station by the Orion spacecraft, launched by the SLS rocket. The HLS module will transport astronauts to the surface of the moon, which will be SpaceX’s Starship at least for the first landing.
- Artemis 1: An unmanned flight where the Orion spacecraft will be guided into orbit around the Moon and then back to Earth. Deadline: end of 2021
- Artemis 2: A manned orbit around the moon. Deadline: 2023
- Artemis 3: Man landing on the moon. Deadline: 2024 at the earliest
- CLPS: Transportation of scientific experiments to the surface of the Moon in support of the Artemis program. Deadline: from 2021