With its Spaceplane project, unveiled towards the end of 2007, Airbus Defence and Space has opened the door to a new industrial age: sub-orbital space flight. The process promises to be a lengthy one; estimated at over seven years for the development of the rocket-powered aircraft and its certification alone.
The adventure into space is not something to be undertaken lightly. The Spaceplane project sees Airbus Defence and Space begin a long industrial process, in line with its position as a manufacturer and developer on the market. The project target: five aircraft produced every year, to create a fleet of over 30 aircraft within 10 years. Expertise from all of Airbus Defence and Space’s European sites will contribute to this project. The engines are being designed in Germany, while composites elements are under the responsibility of the Spanish site. One of the French sites is in charge of the final assembly. Similarly to Airbus’ approach for the A380, Airbus Defence and Space has entrusted important parts of the aircraft to its external partners.
And this is only the beginning. The design and development of the Spaceplane are in effect just the first steps prior to its marketing and entry into operation. Before embarking its first tourists into space or undertaking its first scientific experiments, the rocket-powered aircraft will have to obtain its airworthiness certificate just like any other regular airliner or private jet. Airbus Defence and Space will have to carry out numerous calculations and tests to ensure the certification of its aircraft in compliance with applicable standards, particularly with regard to flight security. The Spaceplane will be designed to take off and land in civil airports, just like an Airbus carrying passengers. It will therefore have to comply with the long list of requirements specific to commercial aircraft, as a forerunner in the realm of ultra-fast air transport. The road ahead is long, but it paves the way to what can only be described as a truly ‘star’-studded dream.