By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
With both Europe and Japan taking steps toward independent human access to space, officials from JAXA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) are meeting today to discuss collaboration on an orbital vehicle that would be able to re-enter the atmosphere and be recovered safely.
The goal of the workshop is to gather innovative ideas for a preliminary study of a future atmospheric re-entry demonstrator to be launched aboard Europe’s Vega rocket, according to an ASI press release.
The work is being done under a cooperation agreement signed between ASI and JAXA that focuses on propulsion and space systems. Re-entry technology is a key focus of the joint work.
ASI is the biggest contributor to ESA’s IXV, Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, a re-entry demonstrator that is set to make a suborbital flight on the Vega rocket from Kourou in 2013 or 2014. The ASI/JAXA meeting appears to focus on an orbital follow-up vehicle.
ESA and JAXA have both developed automated freighters, ATV and HTV, respectively, that provide supplies to the International Space Station. Both of these vehicles could serve as the foundation of spacecraft that could carry astronauts into orbit once both space agencies have mastered re-entry technology.