This experimental aircraft (¼ scale) is being used to study the feasibility of replacing the first stage of a conventional launch vehicle by an automated, reusable launch aircraft.
The aim of this program is to prove the technological validity of this innovative launch concept, designed to orbit nanosatellites quickly and at moderate cost.
Four flights have already been carried out at the Saint-Yan airfield in Burgundy, each lasting about 20 minutes, at low speed, and with or without an experimental rocket payload. These flights confirmed the good performance of Eole, during take-off and landing for instance.
Some technical figures :
- Span : 6.7 m (22 ft) long
- Weight : 155 kg (max 200 kg which 50kg of payload)
- 2 turbojets 40 kN thrust each
- Altitude : 6000 m high
- Maximum speed : 400 km/h (Mach 0,33)
- Autonomy : 45 min to 1h depending the mission
- A 100% composite structure
The development of Eole is a joint effort by Onera, the Launcher Directorate of CNES, and Aviation Design within the scope of Perseus – a space research project that associates students and researchers from universities and aeronautical engineering schools.
Onera is the project prime contractor and lead developer. In particular, it defined the aerodynamics for Eole and its structure, checked aeroelastic stability and determined flight performance. It also developed the flight control/guidance laws and analyzed potential failure points to determine flight safety procedures.
Further test flights of Eole will be conducted in 2014 to check its performance over the entire flight envelope, as well as the flight control/guidance systems required for automated flights. These test flight will culminate in the release of an experimental rocket.