The German Bundeswehr has awarded POLARIS a contract to build and flight-test a scaled demonstrator of its Aurora space launch and hypersonic system. The contract is based on the preparatory project RDRS, successfully executed in 2021.
The vehicle represents a downscaled version of the future spaceplane with a similar external shape, and is to be powered by a reusable liquid-fuel rocket engine, complemented by turbojet engines for take-off and cruise flight. The demonstrator will be the largest flight vehicle built by POLARIS so far, being approximately 10 times heavier than previous jet-powered vehicles that have already flown, or currently are in flight preparation. The first flights are scheduled for the end of this year.
The flight-test campaigns will validate core technologies and operational procedures for the spaceplane, including repeated rocket engine and cryogenic systems operation in flight, take-off and landing under varying environmental conditions, automated flight and vehicle control under large center of gravity shifts, as well as vehicle turnaround and maintenance processes.
We are very pleased by the continuous trust and support of the Bundeswehr, given that virtually all major technological breakthroughs in spaceflight history were triggered either directly or indirectly by the military. We look forward to demonstrating the unique potentials of the Aurora spaceplane for European and allied defense activities.
POLARIS develops reusable multipurpose spaceplanes based on initial concepts formulated within the German Aerospace Center (DLR e. V.) during 2015-2018. Distinguishing features include aircraft-like take-off and landing on conventional runways anywhere in the world, and the capability to autonomously change the operation base. Reusability and aircraft-like operation lead to fundamental cost reductions compared to traditional rockets, and enable unprecedented levels of responsiveness, flexibility and safety. The horizontal take-off spaceplanes under development at POLARIS offer a unique multi-mission capability, addressing various commercial as well as defense-related mission scenarios, including satellite launch, orbital cargo transport, suborbital and hypersonic flight, as well as future human spaceflight. The first operational vehicles will provide an orbital satellite payload capacity of up to 1000 kg, and up to several tons of payload for suborbital/hypersonic missions. Future enlarged vehicles will provide orbital payload capacities of several tons.