FAST20xx is a project of 17 European partners with the objective to advance technologies and know-how of suborbital flight. It is funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission and managed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The study addresses a broad range of topics and disciplines such as:

  • Vehicle design e.g. inflight separation
  • Vehicle technologies, e.g. skipping re-entry or high performance vehicle cooling
  • Propulsion, e.g. hybrid rocket engines
  • Guidance and navigation control (GNC) technologies
  • Vehicle safety
  • Business case analysis
  • Aerospace medicine
  • Legal and administration such as vehicle certification, aviation and space law and liability

17 Partners

The 17 partners are composed of companies, research centers and universities from 9 European countries:


Project organization

The project activities are divided into three main work packages and the management work package:


WP1 - Management

The project management is carried out by ESTEC/ESA.

ImageWP2 - Technologies for Low-Energy Suborbital Flight

WP management: Aerospace Innovation (AI)

The Alpha vehicle concept is the reference for the low-energy type of vehicles. It is launched in flight from within a cargo aircraft in a similar way as military equipment is dropped with parachutes or as the Air Launch LLC company proposed for their QuickReach rocket.

A hybrid propulsion system similar to the one developed by SpaceDev for SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo is the current reference propulsion system.

The activities covered in this WP include:

  • Aerodynamic CFD modeling and optimization
  • Life cycle cost assessments
  • Experimental aerodynamic database generation
  • Modeling and simulation of the separation process
  • Flight trajectory analysis
  • GNC and flight mechanic modeling
  • Vehicle subsystem technologies and design
  • Definition, design, manufacturing and testing of a scaled hybrid test motor

Orbspace will be responsible for the conceptual design of the aircraft carrier interface for the Alpha concept.

ImageWP3 -Technologies for High-Energy Suborbital Transportation

WP management: CIRA

This WP will look into long distance point-to-point connections with suborbital vehicles. Obtaining a flight speed of approximately 6.5 km/sec through a rapid rocket acceleration will allow to leave the atmosphere and coast around the world in 1.5 hours from take-off to landing.

With a skipping atmospheric re-entry, which is comparable to a flat stone bouncing off the water surface, the down-range can be extended significantly.

Considering that up to 45% of the take-off mass of a long range aircraft is fuel, of which most is burned during the long flight and considering that the fuel mass of a hydrogen powered rocket is only about 15% of the take-off mass (75% is liquid oxygen), rocket powered suborbital long-distance flight might be fully acceptable also from an environmental point of view.

The importance of long distance point-to-point connections is expected to grow in the future, in particular with the growing economies in Asia and South America. The following image shows the distances between major population centres on the Earth:


The activities planned in WP3 cover activities such as:

  • Mission Definition and System Analysis of SpaceLiner
  • Heating, Flow and Flight Control
  • Advanced Structures such as active cooling
  • Low-Density Effects in Suborbital Flight
  • Flight Dynamics and Safety

In this WP Orbspace is responsible for the conceptual design of the window for the SpaceLiner, which needs to resist the high mechanical and thermal loads and at the same time be as light weight as possible.

ImageWP4 - Prerequisites for Flight Operations

WP management: Orbspace


This WP combines those aspects which are identical for both suborbital vehicle concepts, such as:

  • Identification of the required ground infrastructure
  • Modeling of operational processes such as maintenance, launch preparation, etc.
  • Analyse the applicability of aviation and space laws and treaties (example: Will suborbital flights space activities fall under the United Nations Outer Space Treaties?)
  • Liability and insurance as well as certification and authorization
  • Atmospheric, ground and sonic pollution
  • Medical aspects such as g-loads, radiation, cabin environment and critical incidence issues
  • Generic vehicle safety analysis
  • Business cases and scenarios
Orbspace is responsible for the WP management and makes contributions in the fields of space law, certification, medical aspects, vehicle safety and business cases and scenarios.

Facts & figures

FAST20XX is a collaboratiove project for small or medium scale focused research projects under the Transport theme of the 7th Framework Programme adressing activity 7.1.6 "Pioneering the Air Transport of the Future".

Total cost:
€ 7.3 Million
EU contribution:        € 5.1 Million
Starting date: 2009-12-01
3 years


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