French and German space agencies, CNES and DLR are exploring the viability of a subscale flyback booster. Dubbed Callisto, the project will test the European partners’ ability to launch, land and refly a launch system from the Guiana Space Centre.
“Prometheus and Callisto are two key elements of our future launcher preparatory roadmap,” said the head of CNES’s Launch Vehicles Directorate, Jean-Marc Astorg. “Prometheus is a new engine to equip Ariane 6 evolutions or brand-new launchers, and Callisto is developed to learn about reusability in Europe, which we have not done before. We are lacking an experience by operation of recovering a vehicle and reflying it. This is exactly what we would like to do with Callisto.”
Described by officials as a modest approach, Callisto will receive between 1 and 2 percent of the Ariane 6’s 3.6-billion-euro ($4.3 billion) development budget. The project is currently in the design phase with a decision to move ahead with a full-scale demonstrator expected in June.
Although Callisto may manifest as a subscale launch system, officials close to the project have stressed that the goal is not to create a new vehicle. The project is to be used instead to establish a base of knowledge that can be utilised in the development of the Ariane 6 and future launch vehicles.
Both CNES and DLR have stressed that Callisto is not a SpaceX copy, however, the design influence is unmistakable with the rocket featuring the now iconic Falcon 9 landing struts. Even so, Hansjörg Dittus, executive board member for space research and technology at DLR has stated that “It’s not a copy of what SpaceX is doing.” “In some aspects we are also sceptical [about reusability as] the right path, but we will see what is best and then we can come up with ideas of how we proceed,” he continued.
Image Credit: CNES