Swiss Space Systems (S-3), based in Payerne in the Alpine country, has released plans for a reusable small satellite launch system, with test flights scheduled to begin in 2017.

S-3's plan entails air-launching a reusable lifting body-like vehicle from the top of an Airbus A300, which will, in turn, release a disposable third stage. Though crucial details were not immediately available, the launch system is closely based on Dassault's airborne reusable hypersonic vehicle (VEHRA) concept, which the company has been proposing for several years without any takers. Dassault is one of six industrial partners in the project.

S-3's launcher will deliver up to 250kg (550lb) into low Earth orbit. The company intends to build and flight test a mockup of the second stage in 2014, with a flight-ready spacecraft assembled by 2016, ahead of a 2017 spaceflight.

A deal with Spaceport Malaysia was signed on the same day as the launch vehicle's public unveiling.

The company is associated with a number of notable people within the space sector, including Switzerland's first astronaut, Claude Nicollier.

S-3 was unavailable for immediate comment.

Source: Flight International