Status: completed

contract N.: 13420 (CCN)
contractor(s):Astrium Gmbh (D)

Electromagnetic Railgun Technology for the Deployment of Small Sub-/Orbital Payloads

Subject of this study is the assessment and demonstration of the feasibility of the concept to launch very light payloads by means of projectiles, which are accelerated by an electromagnetic railgun to hypersonic speed.

Compared to conventional solid and/or liquid rockets, a railgun offers several advantages like high efficiency with high repetitions rates and low recurring costs, resulting in launch prices which are expected to be very competitive in the corresponding market segments.

This present feasibility study is based on findings of former ESA studies, but concentrates strongly on the usage of the railgun technology for market oriented applications, taking into account the changed market aspects and different needs for very small payloads:

a)supplement for small meteorological sounding rockets, as a stepping-stone for
b) the launch of Nano-Satellites (~1 kg) into LEO as future extension

These applications are considered realistic to be implemented based upon a "reasonable" extension of the existing ISL railgun Pegasus facility.
Both are aiming at already existing and established markets and therefore the substitution of small sounding rockets and/or the launch of small satellites into LEO appears to be most promising.

As the focus of this study is the suitability and feasibility for the a.m. different envisaged applications, following main aspects essential for a future railgun launch have been identified and are therefore elaborated:

  • Hypersonic projectiles (general layout, load simulations, etc.)
  • Railgun (general layout) and
  • Market aspects and Payloads

The study team involved in this work consists of the following partners:

  • EADS Space Transportation, Bremen (D), System Aspects
  • French-German Research Institute, Saint-Louis (F), Railgun
  • DLR, Braunschweig (D), Hypersonic Projectile Design
  • IAP Kühlungsborn (D), Science Applications

From the programmatic point of view different major milestones have been achieved during the course of this GSP study:

  • Start (Contract issued): April 10th, 2003
  • Publication/Presentation
    June 3rd, 2003
    16th ESA Symposium on Rocket and Balloon Programmes, St. Gallen
  • Progress-Meeting
    June 11th, 2003
  • Project Presentation
    September 19th, 2003
    to the German Minister of Science and Technology at "German Space-Days" in Braunschweig (D)
  • Final Presentation
    September 23rd, 2003
Copyright 2000 - 2014 © European Space Agency. All rights reserved.