Have you met SUSIE?

ArianeGroup introduces its Susie spacecraft concept for European crew and cargo capabilities.
Credit: ArianeGroup

During Day 1 of IAC in Paris, ArianeGroup execs unveiled the Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration spacecraft concept…SUSIE, for short. 

The proposal is intended to equip Europe with independent crew and cargo access to LEO. Currently, the continent relies solely on the US for its crew transportation needs, after cutting ties with Russia’s launch and spaceflight ecosystem.

SUSIE 101:

  • Length: 12 m
  • Diameter: 5 m
  • Mass: 25,000 kg
  • Crew: Up to 5
  • Payload capacity: 7,000 kg
  • Cargo bay: 40 m³
  • Launch vehicle: Ariane 64 (four booster variant)

“Susie is the result of several years of work by our design teams and provides a particularly ingenious solution for future in-space servicing needs and for automated or crewed flight, the demand for which will only grow in the future,” said Morena Bernardini, head of strategy and innovation at ArianeGroup.

Recovery and reuse

One of the most striking elements of the proposed vehicle is its ability to be propulsively recovered, much like SpaceX originally intended to do with Crew Dragon. Unlike Crew Dragon, however, SUSIE won’t have a disposable trunk and is instead intended to be fully reusable.

ArianeGroup's Susie spacecraft would be recovered with a propulsive touchdown.
Credit: ArianeGroup

SUSIE will use an integrated abort system that would enable flight termination during any phase of the mission, even during the powered vertical descent.

Initially, SUSIE will be launched aboard an Ariane 64. The rocket won’t need any modifications for cargo flights, but will need some (still unspecified) changes for crewed missions. 

Fam’s all here: The vehicle is also designed to be compatible with future launcher designs. In fact, SUSIE is a component of a reusable launch vehicle family project being proposed by ArianeGroup. This proposed family of vehicles will utilize the work done by ArianeGroup for ESA’s reusable Themis booster demonstrator and LOX/Methane-powered Prometheus rocket engine.

Looking beyond low Earth orbit

SUSIE will also offer access beyond LEO to lunar orbit, with the use of its Space Transfer Module. The newfangled module will provide propulsion, power, and consumables, depending on mission requirements. 

In addition to lunar orbit, ArianeGroup envisions SUSIE serving as a cog in a vast transportation machine that will serve LEO and a “parking orbit” beyond the Van Allen Belts. 

What’s next? Before Van Allen Belts, we must consider the baby—then bigger—steps required with any new launch program. For SUSIE, that starts with a proposal. ArianeGroup execs will present the spacecraft concept to ESA member states for consideration at the ministerial level council meeting later this year. 

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