The FAST20XX program is intended to provide a technological foundation for the industrial introduction of advanced hypersonic suborbital space planes in the medium to longer term. The work will focus on mastering the technologies required for the development of such designs. Furthermore, the project will look at the legal and regulatory issues related to suborbital flight in consultation with government and international authorities.
The project aims at the investigation and development of technologies and steps necessary for approaches to conquer the grey zone between aeronautics and space in Europe, and thus to set the foundation of a new paradigm for transportation in the long term. The underlying concepts considered are:
- a European space plane based on an airplane launch approach to advance European know how in this area, based essentially on a ballistic flight experience using hybrid propulsion, and
- the same space plane envisioned to evolve into suborbital point-to-point long-distance transport in very short times by using high-energy propulsion. An alternative, vertically starting two-stage rocket space vehicle system concept is used to identify technologies required for suborbital ultra-fast transportation.
The concepts will be addressed separately and in relation to each other as well as with those considered in other EC projects, exploiting similarities and synergies wherever possible. The concepts can be classified with near term and very long term realisation capabilities, and will be evaluated according to the maturity of underlying technology, inherent risk, sustained operations, and cost.
All concepts and technologies will be considered with respect to environmental issues. Some activities concern the legal issues and those of suitable space ports. Due to the recent agreement with Virgin Galactic, it is quite natural to consider the ESRANGE facility in Sweden an excellent candidate for a starting place of experimental high-altitude high-speed flights.
The FAST20XX project has established sound technological foundations for the introduction of advanced concepts in suborbital high-speed transportation.
The project involved a focus on two novel concepts: Alpha and SpaceLiner. Alpha is air-launched from a carrier plane, after which a hybrid rocket motor is ignited to climb out of the atmosphere. This concept is envisaged for the medium future. SpaceLiner is an all-rocket powered design, with a vertical take off. This concept is envisaged for the second part of this century.
The FAST20XX project has addressed specific technical challenges inherent to the two concepts (Alpha, SpaceLiner) under study. Among others these challenges include:
- Hybrid propulsion: solid fuel propulsion and liquid fuel propulsion;
- Innovative, high performance cooling due to extreme temperatures in the nose of the aircraft vehicle;
- Best separation technique for booster-rockets in a winged aircraft vehicle;
- Creation of a stable (laminar) flow around a supersonic aircraft vehicle;
- Guidance and navigation control;
- Considering and identifying safety requirements.
Innovating for the future (technology and behaviour): A European Transport Research and Innovation Policy