Wiltshire-based autonomous sub-orbital space flight project wants to take off


The EARL Project is looking to build on a successful first flight as owner Dr Raymond Wright looks to take the project to the next level.

Starting five years ago, the EARL Project is a rocket-powered, autonomously-piloted aerodynamic vehicle of lifting body form which aims to carry out third-party scientific experiments.

The vehicle has been designed to complete micro-gravity experiments, astronomy and Earth observation into sub-orbital space.

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The project is owned and managed by Spacefleet, and the brains behind the idea and managing director of the company, Dr Wright, has invested just his own money so far and is hoping further investment will help the EARL Project take off.

With a partner in Romania for help with design, construction and testing, the EARL-D4 took to the skies for the first time in May this year.

At a military range in east Romania the vehicle was stable in flight and followed its programmed autonomous flight path as expected.

The intended maximum height is 150km, with payloads of 10 kg.

The vehicle is re-usable, and can be piloted automatically back to the take-off point at the end of its mission or to a different location within its range.

This contrasts with the currently-used sounding rockets, where the booster is single-use, and the payload has to be returned by sending a recovery team by helicopter.

Wright said: “I think that we will be able to make the breakthrough to re-usable sub-orbital flight because there are cost savings in both the re-usability of the vehicle and in the elimination of the recovery operation, for atmospheric and sub-orbital payloads, and the overall development cost will be low enough to make it worthwhile, because no new technology is needed.

He added: “In particular, it is the low cost of automated guidance systems and satellite navigation that have made this project feasible from a cost perspective, in a way that would not have been possible in earlier years.”

Tags : Drone projectflightSub-orbital
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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