The Swiss airline Swissair, which operates flights around the globe, is today one of the largest and most reliable carriers not only in Europe, but also in the world. At the same time, Switzerland never had any special space ambitions, but not so long ago, in the spring of 2013, this country decided to enter the private manned astronautics market. Already in 2017, the Swiss are going to go beyond the Earth's atmosphere, however, this task will be solved at Swissair, and the created agency Swiss Space Systems (S3), which has presented its own program for launching small space shuttles, using Airbus A300 aircraft.
Until that time, Switzerland had never positioned itself as a world space power. This quiet European country, of course, took an active part in the space initiatives of other states, but the space stations itself and rockets outside the Earth have never launched. That was until 2013, when the S3 agency announced the start of work on its own mini-shuttle program. This program provides for the creation of a spacecraft that can rise to an altitude of 700 kilometers above the planet's surface. At the same time, these flights are proposed to be carried out not with the help of carrier rockets, as the United States did at one time (the Space Shuttle program) and the USSR (the Buran program), but through the use of conventional Airbus A300 aircraft.
Even now we can say that the Swiss borrowed the technical principle from Virgin Galactic. The essence of the project is to launch a large aircraft into the sky, to which a much less massive space shuttle is attached. The carrier aircraft lifts this unit to a certain height, after which the shuttle is separated from the aircraft and continues its flight on its own. When landing, the Swiss mini-shuttle practically does not use its engine - it just hovers in the atmosphere, turning on its own jet turbines only to correct course.
In April 2013, Swiss Space Systems announced that it had already raised € 250 million for this project. Construction of a special spaceport, which should be located in the cozy Swiss town of Peyern, will begin in 2013. The head of the company and former Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier noted that the goal of the project is to provide access to space for all those who feel the need for it. Claude Nicollier stressed that Swiss Space Systems is going to democratize launch services by opening this market to clients in developing countries, research laboratories and universities around the world.
The Swiss are planning to democratize space launches thanks to an original concept. The launch of super-budget space satellites should at least 4 times reduce the cost of launch services for commercial vehicles. The Swiss company notes that they are designing a mini-shuttle, which for only 10 million Swiss francs (or 10, 5 million dollars) will launch small space satellites weighing up to a quarter of a ton into low-earth orbits.
At the jubilee Le Bourget aerospace show held in Paris, the Swiss company Swiss Space Systems, established in March 2013, made some adjustments to its project. Created by Swiss designers, the suborbital reusable shuttle SOAR (Suborbital Aircraft Reusable shuttle) can be used not only for conducting various kinds of experiments in microgravity conditions, but also for transporting people.
Previously, this project provided only for the implementation of launches into low-earth orbit of various unpressurized compartments for scientific experimental purposes - a fairly popular sector of astronautics today. Many organizations and universities around the world are forced to spend significant amounts of money on conducting their scientific experiments on the ISS or specialized satellites. At the same time, the SOAR project provides for suborbital launches of mini-shuttles from the "back" of the modernized A300 aircraft, which is significantly cheaper than current competitors.
In fact, the Swiss mini-shuttle reaches an altitude of 10 kilometers on an ordinary plane, after which, using liquid fuel, it reaches an altitude of 80 kilometers, which provides confirmation of its suborbital status. The satellite, which is deployed with SOAR, then launches its own rocket engine (similar to the 3rd stage of conventional rocket systems) in order to reach true low-earth orbit. According to Swiss experts, this system is capable of launching satellites weighing up to 250 kg into low-earth orbit. to an altitude of up to 700 km - significantly higher than the altitude of the ISS.
It is quite obvious that a relatively small and economical flight (up to 80 kilometers the system is fully reusable, only the rocket stage of the satellite most launched into orbit is disposable), the flight requires significantly less money than a conventional fully rocket launch into space on a completely disposable carrier. In this case, the necessary parameters are achieved for a time period sufficient for the implementation of a large number of all kinds of experiments. In addition, unlike the American shuttles, the thermal loads on the reusable part of the shuttle are minimal, since it does not rise above 80 km, which greatly reduces the likelihood of burnout of the ship's thermal protection, which, in fact, at one time put an end to this type space technology.
The first unmanned mini-shuttle SOAR should enter orbit in 2017, first for experimental purposes, and already in 2018 for commercial purposes. Representatives of the Swiss company S3 have not yet specified the date of the first flight of the shuttle with a person on board, but declare that they will make every necessary effort to ensure that this happens as soon as possible. The Swiss gained access to the necessary technology to develop a pressurized shuttle cockpit for a veteran of the aerospace industry by signing a memorandum of cooperation with Thales Alenia Space. The signed agreement provides for joint work on the creation of a pressurized habitat module for SOAR.
Previously, Thales Alenia Space was engaged in the creation of sealed modules for the ISS, including the connecting blocks "Harmony" and "Tranquility" (aka "Tranquility" and the European research block "Columbus." as much an invasion of the space tourism market (albeit quite competitive), as the development of the potential for fast intercontinental travel between existing spaceports, which will be several times faster than modern passenger aviation in terms of speed.