French company ArianeGroup has announced that it is developing Susie – a new spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts and cargo to the Moon.
The project consists of building a spacecraft to travel on the upper stage of the new Ariane 64 rocket. .
The spacecraft was designed to be 12 meters long, five meters in diameter and weigh 25 tons. It will have an internal compartment with a volume of 40 m³ and capacity for loads of up to 7 tons, being able to travel to space and return to Earth in an automated way.
The development meets the goal of ensuring the exploration of deep space by European astronauts, as well as creating a space logistics network and international cooperation. The purpose is to use the vehicle to bring fuel, food and equipment to space stations, as well as towing, inspecting or servicing satellites.
The project also provides support for the construction of large infrastructures in space, for the removal of space debris, in addition to the transport of goods. Initially, Ariane 64 will allow Susie to perform missions in low Earth orbit. New-generation rockets could extend trips to the Moon’s orbit.
In the video below, the company ArianeGroup presents the concept of the new spacecraft:
Susie, the first European spacecraft
It is worth remembering that the European desire to launch a manned spacecraft is old. During the 1980s, the same company planned to launch the Hermes, a mini space shuttle that would travel on top of the Ariane 5 rocket, and which could carry three astronauts into orbits of 800 km altitude. However, the project was canceled in 1992, due to the high costs involved.
With Susie, the company claims that the concept is in line with Europe’s new space efforts for the coming decades, in terms of transport and orbital services, in addition to supplying the growing space access market. “This is a project built on all the existing know-how in ArianeGroup and in the European industry,” the company said in a statement.
The new line of Ariane 6 rockets is scheduled to fly from 2023. However, there is still no date set for the take-off of the Ariane 64 variant – which will have four side boosters – or even Susie. The company also did not detail how much it will cost to develop the spacecraft.
Susie resembles the design of SpaceX’s current Crew Dragon, but by the time it takes off, it’s likely that Elon Musk’s company will have already launched the Starship – a new-generation spacecraft capable of traveling to Mars. In any case, the new spacecraft will help reduce the European dependence of the US and Russia on human spaceflight.
ArianeGroup, a joint venture between Airbus and Safran, launches through its subsidiary Arianespace for the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as other private customers, from an installed base in French Guiana. The James Webb Space Telescope, for example, was launched into space with a rocket from the French company.