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POLARIS Raumflugzeuge: Aurora space launcher

23/01/2019 1902 views 4 likes
ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications / Technology Transfer

The German startup POLARIS Raumflugzeuge is developing a novel type of space launcher for satellite transport and space tourism applications, the “Aurora” launcher. Meet POLARIS Raumflugzeuge at the 10th ESA Investment Forum in ESOC 31 January 2019.

The “Aurora” launcher is a rocket-powered winged vehicle and operates similar to an aircraft, with runway take-off and landing.

Aurora for satellite transportation and space tourism
Aurora for satellite transportation and space tourism

Depending on the mission, the vehicle will operate in a two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) configuration with a small expendable upper-stage, or as single stage configuration for suborbital missions.

The Aurora concept was designed at the German Aerospace Center DLR in 2015-2018. Technical data and documentations were made available to POLARIS under a DLR license agreement.

The basic idea of Aurora evolved from the innovative Hopper-concept, which was developed in the 1990s in the ESA FESTIP study, and already showed the essential economic advantages of horizontal-launched reusable rocket-planes.

Aurora aims on fundamental, if not even revolutionary, improvements in the economics of space transportation. This includes a major decrease of space transportation costs (€/kg payload) compared to state of the art of today, as well as drastic increase in the levels of flexibility, availability, and safety.

These objectives will be reached by maximizing the level of reusability (95% of the hardware for a TSTO mission), and by operational concepts that resemble those of conventional aircraft as close as possible. This is complemented by a highly efficient “flying wing” configuration that differs substantially from classical wing/body-combinations.

POLARIS Raumflugzeuge: Aurora space launcher
POLARIS Raumflugzeuge: Aurora space launcher

Utilization of the latest structural materials will minimize vehicle weight, and advanced heat-shield technologies will provide superior levels of robustness and greatly reduce maintenance efforts compared to earlier winged launchers.

Aurora is designed to fulfill various mission scenarios:

  • Transport of small satellites up to 1000 kg to low Earth orbit (TSTO, unmanned),
  • High altitude science and research missions such as atmospheric research, astronomy (suborbital single-stage, unmanned),
  • Hypersonics and space technology demonstration and testing (suborbital single-stage, unmanned),
  • Space tourism, astronaut training and human research with an optional manned configuration (suborbital single-stage).

With this portfolio Aurora is able to cover different market segments, including two of the most lucrative space markets of the near future, the small-satellite launch business segment and the up-coming space tourism segment.

The current configuration is considered only as a starting point for a series of derived vehicles of different sizes and for different applications. Future single-stage-to-orbit configurations will furthermore provide new services, such as cheap space-debris removal and on-orbit servicing.

These are very ambitious objectives for a recently founded startup. Thus, as a first step a down-scaled rocket-propelled flight demonstrator will be built and operated. This vehicle will not only serve for technology testing and demonstration purposes. It will also be commercially exploited by providing experiment carrying capabilities for researches and aerospace companies.

POLARIS team: Alexander Kopp, Jennifer Kopp, Wolfgang P. P. Fischer and Nicole Garbers
POLARIS team: Alexander Kopp, Jennifer Kopp, Wolfgang P. P. Fischer and Nicole Garbers

POLARIS Raumflugzeuge was founded in 2018 in central Germany. The core team consists of four members with primarily DLR and ArianeGroup background, and with together almost 60 years of experience in aerospace engineering.

Members of the team have led the Aurora development at DLR and were involved in the Hopper studies in the 1990s and 2000s. This add expertise for critical competences such as launcher and hypersonic vehicle system design, as well as extensive theoretical and experimental/practical experience in reentry thermal protection systems and cryogenic technologies.

POLARIS Raumflugzeuge will participate to the 10th ESA Investment Forum 31 January 2019.

The ESA Investment Forum is an ESA space solutions event organized by ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Hessen and Baden-Württemberg in partnership with High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH and Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) 

The aim is to foster investments in start-ups operating in the space domain as well as within related application domains, downstream as well as upstream. It provides a platform for networking as well as matchmaking between innovative space start-ups and investors.

ESA BICs - World's largest ecosystem for space-related entrepreneurship

The ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Hessen and Baden-Württemberg is part of the ESA space solutions network of 20 ESA BICs throughout Europe.

The centres are operated under ESA’s Technology Transfer and Business Incubation Programme Office (TTPO) with the European network of Technology Transfer Brokers. Together they offer access to all aspects of space-related innovation, technology and intellectual properties and is a gateway to ESA and European space research and developments.

The 20 ESA BICs in 17 European countries – Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and UK – are forming the largest ecosystem in the world for space-related entrepreneurship. The 21th centre is soon to open in Northern Germany and more centres are already under preparation.

Over 700 start-ups have been fostered and another near 180 new start-ups are taken in yearly at the ESA BICs to be supported under the two-years business development boosting programme.