ESA title
Crew Return Vehicle (X-38)
Science & Exploration

Crew Return Vehicle (CRV)

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / International Space Station

Manned Spacecraft to return the crew to Earth in case of emergency

The Crew Return Vehicle is a higly automated reusable spacecraft that serves as a space ambulance, life boat and alternate return vehicle for the crew on the International Space Station. The Crew Return Vehicle provides space for up to 7 astronauts.

NOTE: Since data for the real CRV is not yet available this fact sheet is largely based on the X-38, the CRV's prototype.

Crew Return Vehicle length 9144 mm
Crew Return Vehicle width 4420 mm
de-orbit-propulsion stage length 1829 mm
Cabin internal volume 11.8 m3
Mass budget
Crew Return Vehicle mass 11 340 kg
De-orbit propulsion stage mass 2722 kg

De-orbit propellant Mono-propellant Hydrazine
Attitude control system Pressure regulated Nitrogen cold gas thrusters 922 x 111 N each)

Communications infrastructure  
Ku band TDRS satellite

Environmental control  
Max. number of crew members 7
Cabin temperature 18° - 27° C (Attached to ISS)
up to 28° C after landing
Air pressure 958 - 1013 hPa
CO2 and CO removal Lithium Hydroxide cartridge
H2O vapor removal Charcoal cartridge
Medical facilities Ambulance style first aid can be administered

Electrical power    
Launch phase Power provided by Space Shuttle atttached to ISS: Dormant mode (monthly low power maintenance checks from ISS)
De-orbit and descent Power provided by 4 rechargeable Lithium batteries

Main construction material  
Pressure shell Internal structure Various composite materials
Thermal protection Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC), Thermal tiles and Thermal blankets

Main European contractor  
MAN Technology (Bremen, Germany) and Alenia (Turin, Italy) Leading 22 industrial companies in eight countries

Launch configuration  
Launch Vehicle Space Shuttle
Launched inside the orbiter's cargo bay and berthed to ISS with the Space Station Remote Manipulator
Launch site Kennedy Spce Center (Florida, USA)
First flight mid 2007
Flight rate 1 per 3 years

On orbit configuration  
Attached in stand-by mode to Node 3
Port-port for a period of 3 years
Maximum mission duration for emergency departure 9 hours
Maximum mission duration for medical return 3 hours (because this allows time for optimum sequencing between ISS departure and re-entry burn)
Maximum tumbling rate of ISS still to allow separation 2°/s

Landing configuration    
Control during flight and landing Autonomous with manual interference
Attitude control Cold gas and Air surfaces (which take over in denser regions of the atmosphere)
Parafoil area 685 m3 Drogue chute deployment at 8 km. altitude
Main chute deployment at 7 km. altitude in 5 steps
Landing gear 3 skis
Landing accuracy < 9 km radius
Horizontal landing speed < 4.6 m/s
Flight hardware
(European built)
Fin structure, Fin folding mechanism
Aft structure design
Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) rudder, body flaps and nose cone
Trunnion retraction mechanism
Aerodynamic and Aerothermodynamic database
Landing gear system
Crew seats
International berthing/docking mechanism development model
Cockpit display technique development
Avionics (architectural support)