The ship, the size of a business jet, with twin jet engines for takeoffs and landings, and a single rocket engine for the boost to space, bears more than a passing resemblance to Rocketplane Global‘s spaceship design.
That’s no accident, as Astrium’s chief technical officer Robert Lainé confirmed for my article. After looking at all the major designs being floated, including air-launch like SpaceShipOne, vertical-takeoff-and-landing like Armadillo Aerospace and Blue Origin‘s designs, the Astrium team settled on Rocketplane’s jet-and-rocket hybrid concept because they felt it would be the most cost-effective to operate from multiple airports.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of the company that owns Airbus, and it is also a major contractor for the European Space Agency. The company plans to build the as-yet-unnamed spaceplane for separate owner-operators whose orders for the ship would help finance its construction.