Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions All features

Atmospheric re-entry

Ensuring safe landing

Airbus Defence and Space is the European specialist in atmospheric re-entry. This is obviously critical if spacecraft are to return to Earth, but it is equally important for planetary exploration missions. The company’s unrivalled experience with ballistic missiles underpins broad technological expertise in the design of space vehicles, plus the specialised field of high-temperature materials.

Atmospheric re-entry is an essential space technology. Designated prime contractor by ESA, Airbus Defence and Space was in charge of developing the Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator (ARD). The ARD mission in 1998 was a complete success, giving Europe its first full-scale experience in controlled atmospheric re-entry.

Airbus Defence and Space made the thermal protection systems for all of Europe’s interplanetary missions. These include the Huygens probe, which was launched in 1997 and landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in early 2005, and the Beagle 2 lander for ESA’s Mars Express mission. Today Airbus Defence and Space is also responsible for the design and development of the heat shields in the ExoMars Mars mission to be launched as early as 2013.

Airbus Defence and Space is ready and able to continue its leadership in the programmes of tomorrow. Studies for technology demonstrators which could be incorporated into ESA’s FLPP (Future Launchers Preparatory Programme) are underway, with government funding or using the company’s own resources. The Pre-X experimental atmospheric re-entry vehicle programme reached the Preliminary Design Review planned in September 2007 under a national French CNES contract. This project is now being developed as the intermediate experimental atmospheric re-entry vehicle (IXV) of the European FLPP programme.

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