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ESA supports reusable launcher tests
Preparation for drop test. © PLD Space

ESA supports reusable launcher tests

Drop test demonstrates technologies for reusable launcher.

Spain’s PLD Space, supported by the European Space Agency (ESA), has performed a drop test to demonstrate technologies for a reusable first stage of the Miura 5 orbital microlauncher.

Miura 5 (formerly Arion 2) is aimed to provide dedicated launches for small satellites of up to 300kg to low Earth orbit, in 2021. It weighs 14t at liftoff, and is powered by liquid oxygen–kerosene engines.

In the drop test, carried out from El Arenosillo Experimentation Centre in Spain, a Chinook CH-47 helicopter lifted the 15m-long 1.4-diameter Miura 5 demonstration first stage to an altitude of 5km then dropped it over a controlled area of the Atlantic Ocean, 6km off the coast of Huelva in southern Spain.

During the descent, electronic systems inside the demonstrator controlled a carefully timed release of three parachutes to slow it down until its splashdown at a speed of about 10m/s.

A team of divers recovered the demonstrator and hoisted it onto a tugboat, which returned to the port of Mazagón. The demonstrator is said to to be in good shape and will now be transported to PLD Space, in Elche, for inspection and further analysis.

In a next step, PLD Space intends to develop a propulsive landing system in addition to the parachutes.

These technologies are being developed with support from ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.

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