The European Space Agency (ESA) is building a new spacecraft, but this one will have a special sustainable twist. The Space Rider craft is expected to be the agency’s first reusable spacecraft and is expected to be able to venture into orbit multiple times with safe returns to Earth.
The unmanned craft looks like something between a spacecraft and an airplane and can fly into space and return to Earth a total of six times. The reusable craft is not only more sustainable because it does not require sourcing new materials, but it is also more cost efficient as it can make several expeditions that would previously require building whole new crafts.
Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) use the microgravity of space to perform many scientifically critical experiments. The ESA hopes the new reusable spacecraft will be able to successfully transport supplies to the ISS and facilitate groundbreaking discoveries with lower cost and impact.
The Space Rider was first proposed in 2016 and the ESA recently approved $200 million in funding to make the proposal a reality. About the size of two minivans, the craft will be able to carry more than 1,700 pounds and can remain in orbit for up to two months. Its maiden voyage is scheduled for late 2023.
Image source: ESA