Space vehicle studies
The suborbital activity started with the project of an airborne reusable hypersounic vehicle (Vehra). It was an evolution from the NASA's X-38 experimental lifting-body, for which Dassault Aviation had defined the shape. It is a family of vehicles declined in three versions:
- 10 tons demonstrator;
- 30 tons vehicle to launch small satellites of 300 kg into low Earth orbit (LEO);
- 200 tons heavy vehicle to place 7 tons in LEO.
Airborne launch, from a commercial transport aircraft, allows to escape in the constraints of launching compared with classical systems. Concerning the flexibility, this kind of launcher would require a lighter ground infrastructure, and the possibility to interrupt the mission by getting back vehicles and their payloads, in most of the cases. The Vehra project gave place to numerous works (configuration, systems, propulsion, etc.).