ESA's robotic Space Rider vehicle aims to provide Europe with an affordable, independent and reusable space transportation system for routine access and return from low orbit.
LE BOURGET, FRANCE — Although Europe’s Space Rider reusable space plane is three years or so from its debut, the European Space Agency (ESA) is already making plans to privatize the unmanned orbital vehicle.
By 2025, ESA officials said, Space Rider could be operating commercially, flying science payloads and bringing them back to Earth for roughly $4,200 per pound ($9,200 per kilogram).
Arianespace, the Evry, France-based launch services provider, would likely serve as Space Rider’s operator, offering industry and government customers the opportunity to fill the space plane's 1,760-lb. (800 kg) payload capacity with microgravity science, materials testing, telecommunications and robotics demonstrations. [Space Planes: Evolution of the Winged Spaceship (Infographic)]