A European consortium funded by the EU has revealed plans to replicate the reusability of theSpaceX Falcon 9. The project is being driven by the German Aerospace Center with input from five major European aerospace companies.
The RETro Propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies (RETALT) project was established in March 2019 with €3 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation framework programme. According to a June 18 press release, it aims to “advance the research and development of key technologies for European vertical-landing launch vehicles.”
With this aim in mind, RETALT recently announced plans to pursue the development of two launch vehicle types. The first is a vertical take-off vertical landing single-stage to orbit vehicle, like that of the McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper. The second is a vertical take-off vertical landing two-stage to orbit vehicle, like that of the SpaceX Falcon 9.
Many companies are working on vertical take-off vertical landing two-stage to orbit vehicles and every competitor is not a blatant attempt to replicate the SpaceX Falcon 9. However, RETALT has gone so far as to include an image of a Falcon 9 booster touching down on the company’s website and to describe the vehicle as “similar to the Falcon 9 developed by SpaceX.” The proposed design also bears a striking resemblance to the Falcon 9 apart from a deployable interstage that is to be used in lieu of control fins.
In addition to replicating the design and functionality of the Falcon 9, the consortium appears to also be interested in SpaceX’s ability to capture the public’s interest with live-streamed touchdowns. In a press release, RETALT Project Coordinator Ali Gülhan alluded to “the images and videos from SpaceX” becoming a global sensation.
The RETro Propulsion Assisted Landing Technologies project is expected to last three years. It is currently unclear whether the knowledge gained will be utilised for an existing European vehicle like that of the Ariane 6 or a completely new launch vehicle.