A European re-entry capsule for bringing scientific payloads back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) will complete its €3.8 million ($5 million) Phase B study next month with a system requirements review.

When the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010, the European Space Agency (ESA) will need to bring back scientific payloads from its Columbus ISS laboratory up to four times a year. Sent to the ISS as part of ESA's expendable Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the Payload Retrieval System (PARES) could bring back up to 220kg (485lb) in its current design.

EADS Space Transportation has been conducting the studies and considered four different shapes. Its preferred design is a 700mm (27.5in)-diameter, 2.28m (7.5ft)-long cylinder with 0.43m³ (15ft³) of cargo space that uses deployable stabilisers set at an angle of 55° for ballistic stability.

As the ATV descends to Earth to crash into the Pacific, PARES is spin-ejected at 3RPM and deploys the carbon-silica-carbon ceramic stabiliser panels while still in space. "We studied various re-entry systems including an inflatable one," says Thomas Walloshek, EADS project manager for reusable demonstrators and ISS logistics. "We settled on a hot structure. PARES would be forward ejected to avoid ATV debris, but like ATV would land in the Pacific [and be retrieved from the sea]."

Source: Flight International