Airbus Defence and Space has employed an Airbus Helicopters AS350 B3e Ecureuil operated by its sister company as part of the latest tests of its SpacePlane demonstrator.
The SpacePlane is a suborbital vehicle which is designed to take off and land from a runway. The SpacePlane is being designed to carry four passengers to an altitude of 100km into space. The business jet-sized vehicle would take off and land conventionally from a runway using its jet engines and at an altitude of about 12 km, the rocket engine would be ignited.
Photo courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
The drop tests, which were conducted 100 km off the coast of Singapore in the South China Sea, involved a quarter-scale model of the SpacePlane. After being winched from a barge by the AS350, operated by Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia, the SpacePlane demonstrator was released at a height of around 3,000 meters. The craft was then piloted from the barge as it made its return to the ground, ending its flight at sea where it was later picked up.
The tests were intended to validate the dynamic flight conditions encountered in the end of flight phase following a return from space, says Airbus Defence and Space.
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