DLR Orders Third Re-entry Demonstrator from Astrium

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PARIS — The German government has approved spending in excess of 20 million euros ($26 million) to build and launch a third Shefex atmospheric re-entry demonstrator vehicle to fly in 2016 or 2017, and on Jan. 24 contracted with Astrium Space Transportation to build the vehicle.

The contract with Bremen, Germany-based Astrium, valued at about 6 million euros, will produce a vehicle designed to reach greater speeds than the two previous Shefex versions, which were launched in 2005 and 2012, according to Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR. Woerner spoke to reporters Jan. 24.

The second pencil-shaped Shefex vehicle was launched in June from northern Norway’s Andoya rocket range and flew for about 10 minutes, reaching an altitude of about 180 kilometers. Its leading edges recorded temperatures of 2,500 degrees Celsius.

Harsh sea conditions west of the island of Spitzbergen, coupled with a lack of telemetry in the final seconds before splashdown, caused Shefex 2 to be lost at sea. But DLR and its partners said signals sent confirmed that the vehicle’s parachutes had opened. The telemetry data from some 300 on-board sensors was sufficient to call the mission a success despite the loss of the vehicle.