EADS Astrium has released this latest concept image of the European Space Agency's Advanced Reentry Vehicle (ARV) along with the announcement that the European company has been awarded a €21 million phase A study for ARV - see press release in the extended portion of this blog post
The press release bravely says that the ARV could fly in 2016. What it doesn't mention is that the €21 million ($29.3 million) is the entire sum the ESA member states gave their agency for ARV from 2009 and up to and including 2011
So without some substantial spending for ARV immediately after the 2011 ESA member states ministers' meeting, at which they will also be asked to sign off on Ariane 5 ME and possible Ariane 6 (more on this in a blog post very soon), ARV will remain a pretty picture
Certainly the upbeat tone of Astrium's press release (when are press releases ever not up beast though?) contrasts sharply with what Hyperbola was hearing from ESA's technical centre a few months ago
Astrium conducts European Space Agency (ESA) study on a new transport system for return to Earth: the Advanced Re-entry Vehicle (ARV)
- Transportation of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth to be studied within the ARV programme
- The study programme amounts to €21 million
- First flight is possible in 2016
Bremen, 7 July 2009 - Astrium, Europe's leading space company, is conducting a study for a future European Transport System, ARV (Advanced Re-entry Vehicle), on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). Accordingly, Astrium is exploring the requirements for a system transporting cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and back to Earth as well as the necessary steps to realise such a program. The ARV programme study by ESA amounts to €21 million.
"Astrium, in its role as industrial prime contractor for the Columbus laboratory and the ATV, has built up leading edge competencies which will pave the way for the development of transporting cargo for return to Earth," said Dr. Michael Menking, Head of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration, Astrium. "It would be possible to have a European unmanned cargo transport system based on the ATV ready for its first demonstration flight by 2016."
The European spaceship needs to be equipped with the capability to return to Earth safely, as the present version of the ATV burns up when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. This evolutionary step is in any case a useful and even necessary undertaking, in view of the fact that there will be only limited means of transporting material back from the space station to Earth when NASA retires its shuttle fleet from service in 2010. After that, the only option will be to use the Russian Soyuz capsule to bring back crew members and material from the ISS.
At the ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November 2008, Member States adopted a series of new programmes in the field of space exploration. ARV, one of these programmes, is slated to run 18 months during which a phase A study will be undertaken by Astrium. ESA decided to directly award the contract to Astrium due to its unrivalled know-how and experience in this area.
The study responds to Europe's status as a qualified partner in developing automatic transport vehicles to supply the ISS. ARV will be an evolution of ATV, successfully flown to the ISS in 2008. On the basis of the evaluation of various options for transporting cargo to the ISS and back to Earth the next step could be to investigate additional possibilities of using the ARV to transport astronauts into space and bring them safely back to Earth.