French space agency unveils reusable rocket modeled after Falcon 9

french space agency unveils reusable rocket arianeworks
A still from the video released by Ariane Group visualizing a future launch vehicle. Ariane Group

The French space agency CNES, working with European aerospace company Ariane Group, has unveiled a plan to create an “acceleration platform” called ArianeWords, which will begin with a first stage rocket that is reusable for multiple launches. The first stage rocket, called Themis, will launch vertically and land nearby the launch site, allowing the reuse of the engine, which should make launches considerably cheaper to implement.

The Ariane Group released a video showing a visualization of the Themis and Callisto systems in action, claiming that their Prometheus oxygen and methane engine will deliver 100 tons of thrust for 10 times cheaper than alternatives. They showed off features like digital controls, embedded intelligence, and the ability to adapt the system to any launcher. Of note is the landing shown in the video, in which one rocket launches as another one lands — the idea being that having the launches from one location will cut down on costs, as proposed in other reusable rocket concepts.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s an awful lot like SpaceX’s two-stage and partly reusable Falcon 9 rocket, which has been used in launches since 2010. To be fair, CNES have copped to drawing their inspiration from other space projects. The Launch Vehicles Directorate at CNES, Jean-Marc Astorg, admitted the similarities of their Callisto first stage to the Falcon 9’s first-stage reuse prototype Grasshopper in an interview last year: “Callisto is Grasshopper. The Chinese are also building a similar prototype, I have no problem saying we didn’t invent anything.”

CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall acknowledged the tough international competition for commercial space launches and even acknowledged the elephant in the room of Elon Musk’s hugely visible and ambitious SpaceX program. “Ariane is one of Europe’s greatest technological, industrial and commercial success stories, and we must pursue that success in the face of strong international competition,” Le Gall said in a statement. “The role of ArianeWorks is to prepare, at French level, the proposals for future launchers to be presented at Europe’s next Ministerial Conference. These include, in particular, the roadmap for Ariane Next and for its first phase, the Themis demonstrator.”

Emerging Tech

Google wants to map the world's air quality. Here's how.

For the past several years, a growing number of Google’s Street View cars have been doing more than just taking photos. They’ve also been measuring air quality. Here's why that's so important.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX scraps second effort to launch 60 Starlink satellites

Wednesday's planned SpaceX launch of 60 Starlink satellites was pushed back due to bad weather. Thursday's launch has also been postponed, so the company said it will try again next week.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX calls off Starlink launch just 15 minutes before liftoff

High winds above Cape Canaveral on Wednesday night forced SpaceX to postpone the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket in a mission that would have marked the first major deployment of the company’s Starlink internet satellites.
Emerging Tech

This is what 60 SpaceX internet satellites packed into a rocket look like

SpaceX boss Elon Musk posted a photo over the weekend showing the first batch of Starlink internet satellites packed into the nose cone of a Falcon 9 rocket, ready for deployment in the coming days.
Emerging Tech

Boeing shows off Starliner test ahead of launch this summer

Ahead of its planned debut launch in August, Boeing has shared a video of its CST-100 Starliner capsule undergoing a recent parachute test in which it was dropped from a high-altitude balloon.
Emerging Tech

Soaring on air currents like birds could let drones fly for significantly longer

Birds are sometimes able to glide by catching rising air currents, known as thermals. This energy-saving technique could also be used by drones to allow them to remain airborne longer.
Cars

Volkswagen is launching a full range of EVs, but it doesn’t want to be Tesla

Volkswagen is preparing to release the 2020 ID.3 - an electric, Golf-sized model developed for Europe. It sheds insight into the brand's future EVs, including ones built and sold in the United States.
Emerging Tech

Get ready to waste your day with this creepily accurate text-generating A.I.

Remember the text-generating A.I. created by research lab OpenA.I. that was supposedly too dangerous to release to the public? Well, someone just released a version of it. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Think your kid might have an ear infection? This app can confirm it

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new A.I.-powered smartphone app that’s able to listen for ear infections with a high level of accuracy. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

San Francisco won the battle, but the war on facial-recognition has just begun

San Francisco has become the first city in America to ban facial recognition. Well, kind of. While the ruling only covers certain applications, it's nonetheless vitally important. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

UV-activated superglue could literally help to heal broken hearts

Scientists at China's Zhejiang University have developed a UV-activated adhesive glue that is capable of efficiently healing damage to organs, including the heart. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

USC’s penny-sized robotic bee is the most sci-fi thing you’ll see all week

Engineers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles have built a bee-inspired robot that weighs just 95 grams and is smaller than a penny. Check it out in action here.
Emerging Tech

Purdue’s robotic hummingbird is nearly as nimble as the real thing

A team of engineers in Purdue University’s Bio-Robotics Lab have developed an impressively agile flying robot, modeled after the hummingbird. Check it out in all its robotic hovering glory.
Emerging Tech

Watch this drone dodge an incoming soccer ball autonomously

Most drones aren't very good at avoiding incoming objects. But now a team from the University of Zurich has developed a drone which can dodge, swoop, and dive to avoid an incoming football.