Why does space launch cost so much, while air flight is so cheap? Think how much it would cost you to travel on an Airbus or Boeing, etc, if the whole aircraft were to be scrapped at the end of its first flight. Only millionaires could afford tickets. That's what happens with space launchers. Can we do anything about it? Yes, we can.
Spacefleet Ltd is a small UK company that has started this effort by developing a space-capable rocket-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle ("UAV"), or "drone". It will be capable of taking small payloads up above the atmosphere into space. On May 5th, 2018, we tested a small-scale "boost-glide" demonstrator, the EARL-D4, which flew up to 4 km height, before gliding down to the ground, under programmed automatic control.
EARL-D4 taking off at a site in eastern Romania
We now need to make changes, to build a more aerodynamic hull, and with improved solid propellant, or a liquid-propellant rocket motor, we expect the EARL-D4 Mk II to reach 30 km or more. With a scaling-up of the hull by a factor of three, we can reach sub-orbital space and we'll then have a commercial product.
To build a sub-orbital version of the EARL is something that a small group of sub-millionaire partners, for example, could do. A sub-orbital EARL could replace the expendable sounding rockets in current use around the world. The vehicle would be re-usable, like an aircraft, and the payload recovery expedition would be eliminated as well, leading to a big cost saving.
We have expertise in:
- Rocket propulsion, both solid and liquid propellant
- Guidance, navigation and communications for UAVs
If you would like to know more about this project, or you are interested in-:
- sending small experiments (can-sat format) to the upper atmosphere for micro-gravity or atmospheric measurements
- using our solid-propellant rocket motors, e.g. 120mm diameter motor, 750kg thrust. Motors are re-usable. New motors can be custom-designed to your requirements.
- having a special-purpose UAV designed and built to your requirements.
- rocket propulsion and space technology education and training