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

The best deepfakes on the web: Baby Elon, Ryan Reynolds Wonka, and beyond

Deepfakes, the A.I.-aided face-swapping technology that threatens the future of truth as we know it, are everywhere. Here are some of the scariest, funniest, and most convincing we've seen.
Cars

Infiniti will take on BMW and Mercedes-Benz with its own crossover coupe

Launching in 2020, the Infiniti QX55 will be a crossover coupe similar to models that have proven successful for BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Infiniti said the QX55 will have styling influenced by its early 2000s FX.
Gaming

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Emerging Tech

NASA wants your help developing autonomous robots to explore other worlds

NASA is asking for the public's help to create the robots which could one day explore the moon, Mars, and beyond. It has launched the second phase of its Space Robotics Challenge to develop autonomous functionalities of the robots.
Deals

You can now get the Google Pixel 3 XL for $300 less on Amazon

American software titan Google jumped on the smartphone train by launching its excellent Pixel line of mobile devices. Its Pixel 3 XL (64GB) is currently discounted on Amazon for $300 less than the usual price.
News

Domino’s swerves around traffic by expanding its ebike pizza delivery service

Your Domino’s pizza could now be delivered to you via ebike. Through a partnership with Rad Power Bikes, Domino’s is hoping to solve the problems of traffic congestion and the difficulty of finding parking for those delivering pizza in…
Emerging Tech

Amazing app promises a full fitness checkup from a 30-second selfie

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that's able to gather vital health information about users with nothing more invasive than a 30-second selfie. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Europe’s free land could house enough wind turbines to power the world

Think wind turbines aren't a realistic means of powering the world? An international team of researchers have worked out that there is enough available land in Europe to do the job.
Emerging Tech

DARPA’s next robotics competition is an obstacle course in an abandoned mine

Kicking off this week, the DARPA Subterranean Challenge will put 11 robotics teams through their paces in a simulated disaster scenario in a defunct mine system in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Emerging Tech

Google’s soccer-playing A.I. hopes to master the world’s most popular sport

Think the player A.I. in FIFA ‘19 was something special? You haven’t seen anything yet! That’s because Google is developing its own soccer-playing artificial intelligence. And, if the company’s history with machine intelligence is…
Emerging Tech

Amazon’s facial recognition updates can detect fear, among other emotions

Amazon’s facial recognition software can detect emotion on people’s faces. The company announced improvements in emotion detection, including: Happy, sad, angry, surprised, disgusted, calm, confused, and fear.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is developing A.I. missiles that can choose their own targets

The U.S. military wants to equip itself with a new type of artificial intelligence-guided missile, which will use A.I. smarts to pursue its targets. Prototypes will be shown off in 2021.
News

UPS partners with TuSimple to test self-driving semi-trucks

UPS has been carrying truckloads of goods in self-driving semi-trucks since May. The vehicles are being tested in Arizona routes between Phoenix and Tucson for better service and efficiency for UPS delivery.
Emerging Tech

Astro the dog-inspired quadruped robot can sit, lie down, and… learn?

Move over Spot! Researchers from Florida Atlantic University have built a new dog robot called Astro. Thanks to deep learning technology, it promises to be able to learn just like a real dog.