ESA funds spaceplane 'final approach' system

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The European Space Agency is to spend up to €100,000 ($150,300) developing and validating guidance approaches and guidance algorithms for a future European reusable space transportation systems' terminal area energy management (TAEM) flight regime.

During the TAEM phase the reusable launch vehicle's (RLV) guidance system aligns the vehicle with the runway while controlling its altitude and velocity.

The research will examine "typical spacecraft configurations and novel" TAEM guidance approaches that could enhance the degree of autonomy and reusability. Testing and verification of TAEM guidance algorithms will be validated using software.

"[This work] will be needed for...experimental vehicles," says ESA. Its technical and quality management directorate's electrical engineering department will undertake the work under the agency's technology research and core activities programme, with a contractor.

Reusable transportation systems have been a focus for ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). Now in its second phase of its five year plan that started in 2004, the goal of FLPP is to have, what the agencty calls, its Next Generation Launcher operational around 2020.

As well as the RLV concept studies undertaken in FLPP's phase one, ESA has plans to flight test its Intemediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) in 2010. But IXV will not land on a runway it will land in the Pacific ocean.