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ACE Launches Suborbital Spacecraft Challenge

European Consortium Seeks Input From College Students

Undergraduate and graduate students studying in Europe can participate in developing innovative solutions for an ambitious suborbital spaceplane project developed by ACE (Astronaute Club Europeen) and led by European astronaut Jean-Pierre Haignere. The deadline for application is December 31, 2006.

The Vehicule Suborbital Habite (VHS) Challenge is based on an air-launched reusable suborbital spacecraft and inspired by the exceptional 2004 feats of Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne, the first private spaceplane to reach space. Although numerous similar projects have started primarily in the US, those aerospace engineering skills also exist in Europe, giving the Continent the capacity to embark on related endeavors.

With partners that include Safran, Thales Aerospace Division, Dassault Aviation, Gifas, the French Aero-space Industry Association and IAF (International Astronautical Federation), ACE and Haignere have the ability to attract talented students and challenge the solutions chosen for its VSH spaceplane with innovative propositions from student teams.

The VSH is a reusable air-launched vehicle with its main propulsion provided by a rocket engine. The flight envelope of the vehicle is Mach 3.5 and 62 miles altitude. There are no exotic materials or special thermal protection; the VSH is based on a conventional metallic construction.

  • Length: 38 ft
  • Wing-span: 30.5 ft
  • Weight: 13,600 lbs
  • Propellant mass: 11,900 lbs

Students in a wide variety of studies, including finance, law, aerospace and mechanical engineering, management, communication, and design have been encouraged to put together teams and seek endorsement from their home institutions before they apply to work on one of the 10 work packages proposed by the Challenge.

Once approved by the Challenge group, teams can solicit advice from their own academicians, as well as possibly Challenge partner experts. At the end of spring 2007, they will present their results, which will be evaluated and ranked by a special Challenge committee. The best teams will be recognized during a special June 2007 event of students, partners and European aerospace industry leaders. Team solutions will be compared to those currently proposed for the VSH and may ultimately be used if deemed more efficient.

New work packages based on the results of the Challenge will be proposed next fall.

FMI: www.studentaerospacechallenge.eu

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