Video: Airbus Completes Drop Test of SpacePlane Demonstrator

Video Caption: Airbus Space and Defence completed tests on their SpacePlane demonstrator between May 1-4, 2014.

Tests completed for Airbus Defence and Space’s SpacePlane
demonstrator in South China Sea

Held on 1-4 May, the tests of Airbus Defence and Space’s SpacePlane demonstrator validated the dynamic flight conditions encountered in the end-of-flight phase following a return from space.

The tests, supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, took place 100 kilometers off the coast of Singapore and involved a fleet of seven ships.

The quarter-scale demonstrator used in the tests was built in partnership with HOPE Technik and Airbus Group Innovations, the corporate network of research centres of Airbus Group.

After being winched from the barge by an AS350 B3e Ecureuil helicopter operated by Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia, the SpacePlane demonstrator was released at a height of around 3,000 metres. It was then piloted from the barge as it made its return to the ground, ending its flight at sea before being picked up as planned a few hours later.

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.

  • mzungu

    Oh, wow, haven’t heard from them for years, all this time I thought it was a stillborn project. The other side of the pond was getting boring, glad to see just about any activities.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    There a long way behind Boeing and X-37. Seems like a bit of a waste. Wonder what there longer term strategy is.

  • windbourne

    Several things:

    1) this is not designed to go to orbit. It competes against VG/SS2, not against the X-37. VG should be VERY nervous. I wonder if EU is funding this?

    2) If the US feds are not paying for it, Boeing is doing little to nothing. Sadly, all of the US military is becoming just like that. The men that created companies like Lockheed, Martin, and Boeing had far more in common with the likes of Musk, than the CEOs that run these companies today. I have to admit that Airbus is looking good, while Boeing/L-Mart are looking like GM/Chrysler.

    3) A future path would be to increase the rocket so that it can go into orbit.
    They would still need to solve the thermal issues with returning, but, if they could develop a craft that deals with that, AND is re-usable similar to a jet, and less like a Falcon 9R, they COULD take on SpaceX.

    4) of course, by the time that they are ready to do this, SpaceX will be mostly using MCT, and hopefully, will have 100+ re-uses on theirs.

    I have to give AirBus credit. They are taking a long-term view on this, and spending money. Way to go.

  • Kam Chuanhui

    This is done off Singapore waters, with a local partner, in.Genius.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    OK, here’s a stupid question:
    Why didn’t they go the traditional route and just land it on a runway?.

    What is the purpose of destroying it with a water landing?.

  • ReusablesForever

    This is very much like the now defunct Rockertplane and Astrium concepts in that it features airbreathing engines for takeoff(?) and return to the landing site. Protecting the engines during entry would be a problem as would restart. Rocketplane’s approach to the restart concern was to line up the entering vehicle with the runway – that way if the engines didn’t start, they just made a straight in approach.

    With this one, the straight wings could be a concern for supersonic to subsonic longitudinal aerodynamic stability as would LE heating.

    I agree with the water landing concern – why not install parachutes if they wanted to forgo a runway landing?

    They are competing with XCOR and VG. They could fly out of Spaceport Sweden.

  • windbourne

    If anything failed, no big deal.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Didn’t think that a shallow dent in a muddy field would be considered a big deal. I’m more tempted to suspect institutional incompetence, but after all they are the experts, though apparently not at undercarriages and parachutes.

  • Aerospike

    This IS the Astrium concept as far as I know. Astrium = Airbus

  • Aerospike

    Where does it say anything about it being destroyed?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    How likely is it that it made a soft touchdown at 200 mph on the surface of the ocean and was recovered completely intact?.
    May be it wasn’t destroyed, just a bit broken.

  • Aerospike

    Again, where did you get the information about a 200 mph impact?

    Maybe you are right, maybe not. I just wanted to point out that the PR didn’t provide any relevant information regarding the “landing”, only that it was “picked up” at some point.

    Since the video is cut off right after release from the helicopter, it is simply speculation what happened at the end of the flight.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    OK then, have it your way. The cruise missile shaped plane with stubby wings floated down at 20mph. Then it landed softly on the ocean, just like every other aeroplane that attempts to touchdown on water doesn’t. OR it came down fast and hit hard. The choice is yours.

    The flight recorders were recovered.

  • michaelh

    I though the partner was Hope Technik?

  • Waz

    Interesting video. However not much is given away as to why this drop test is conducted… why not use CFD, wind tunnel tests and simulation? I assume part of the test was to obtain data at high AoA (given by the presence of the probes) as well as verify control laws. I see also that it recovered by parachute to answer some of the posts below (see the whiteboard in the control room).