HOMER (HOver ManoEuvRe), an Airbus Defence and Space R&D project, is a multi-functional demonstrator which can be used for both landing and hovering applications, HOMER is one of Airbus Defence and Space’s flagship projects introduced to drive innovative technologies and new project ideas forward.
How do you develop a hover platform with a highly reactive thrust engine and combine it with a soft landing mechanism?
The answer is with HOMER (HOver ManoEuvRe), an Airbus Defence and Space R&D project.
A multi-functional demonstrator which can be used for both landing and hovering applications, HOMER is one of Airbus Defence and Space’s flagship projects introduced to drive innovative technologies and new project ideas forward.
HOMER has successfully completed its first ground validation tests.
The HOMER (HOver ManoEuvRe) technical demonstrator has passed its validation tests, including a free flight sequence in lander configuration, with flying colours
“The HOMER platform is a kind of incubator of multi-functional technologies. It can be adapted as a planetary landing demonstrator or an especially agile vehicle to demonstrate mobility in space,” explains Nicolas Sauvage, HOMER project director.
The ODYSSEY configuration, which has three landing legs (Lander configuration)
“It comes in two configurations: a version designed for the ODYSSEY mission (Lander), for which HOMER is equipped with a landing system (featuring shock absorbent legs) and a unique vertical engine, and a version designed for the ILIAD mission (Impactor), without a landing system but featuring two additional lateral engines. During validation of the demonstrator at the system level, we concentrated on the ODYSSEY version for landing manoeuvres. However, the vehicle is also designed to carry out lateral movements and demonstrate its agility in space in the ILIAD (Impactor) configuration.”
The ILIAD configuration (Impactor configuration)
A European first
The project is carried out by a multi-disciplinary, transnational and multi-site team, whose members are driven and united by the same goals. These are to develop and bring to maturity a new type of propulsion – based on the pintle injection principle, which NASA had employed for the motor system of the Apollo missions’ lunar landing module, but which is, here, a European first; and also to demonstrate Airbus Defence and Space’s expertise and capabilities in complete systems integration and performing system tests at a very early stage of the development process.
“Our objective for HOMER is to position ourselves as the number one European company for two new platforms in our product portfolio: a landing platform for planetary exploration, and an agile platform for space mobility,” says Jean-Luc Macret, head of R&T projects at Airbus Defence and Space. “The success of the first ground validation tests, which were carried out in October 2012 at Airbus Defence and Space’s Aquitaine site in France, puts us in an excellent position to achieve this goal.”
A European first: HOMER’s first hover test flight was a success! The test flight took place at the new Primevère test centre at Airbus Defence and Space’s site in Aquitaine (France)
Freeflight tests in Lander configuration
The goal of the flight test was to validate the platform, i.e.: demonstrate a hover flight phase, a roll manoeuvre, and finally a soft landing of the vehicle from a height of approximately one metre from the ground.
To carry out these tests, the HOMER platform was assembled in integration facilities at the company’s Bremen site in Germany before being transported to the test centre in Aquitaine. For the free flight test campaign, the vehicle was installed on its test platform in Lander configuration in order to perform its takeoff, hover flight, roll, descent, braking manoeuvres and finishing up with a soft landing. “We are happy to announce that HOMER is now validated at system level,” says Nicolas.
The goal of achieving a hover manoeuvre with the ODYSSEY version of HOMER has been achieved. What now?
The HOMER test platform is now ready for the next phase of testing. Depending on the requirements of future customers, the vehicle can be subjected to lateral movement testing, for example, or final approach phase testing by means of a high-altitude drop test which would involve dropping HOMER from a helicopter from about a hundred metres above the ground. “The major advantage of this demonstrator is its great flexibility in terms of subsequent applications and future adaptation,” says Nicolas. “With the validation of this platform, we have positioned Airbus Defence and Space as the first space company in Europe to possess test flight capability in this new domain and it should not be long before we can capitalise on the technological know-how we have acquired.”
Jean-Luc Macret agrees: “The long-term goal is to obtain high-precision propulsion and soft-landing capability, as well as navigation and obstacle-avoidance capability for planetary landers. These major technologies will be matured and qualified separately by Airbus Defence and Space over the course of the next two to three years. They will then be integrated into the next generation of demonstrators – for example, a demonstrator for space debris disposal – which will be added to Airbus Defence and Space’s portfolio.”