Possible missions for SpaceFish are a crew return vehicle from low earth orbit, a life boat for the ISS or a spacecraft for touristical suborbital flights.

The basic idea of the SpaceFish is a re-entry vehicle with a an extended duration of the atmospheric flight and therefore a reduced rate of dissipated kinetic energy and a minimized deceleration compared to the Space Shuttle.  Flight time will be 2-3 times longer.

Blunt re-entry vehicles like the Space Shuttle or the X-38 fly with a L/D ratio in the order of 1 in the upper atmosphere.  High heat flux and high dynamic pressure are present simultaneously to some extent for these conventional reentry systems.

Animation created by ESA

Extended re-entry duration requires a higher L/D ratio of at least 2. The high L/D ratio of SpaceFish results in a cross-range 3500-5000 km and enables a wide range of re-entry windows and landing sites. During the long re-entry flight of SpaceFish the phases with high heat flux are characterized by low mechanical loads, and the phases with higher mechanical loads are characterized by low heat fluxes.  SpaceFish will be controlled like a conventional airplane along the flight path by deflecting the rudder in the tail, and when necessary with control thrusters.

SpaceFish Hypersonic High AOA

ESA, the European Space Agency, has chosen SPACEFISH, based on the SmartFish design, for the Bexus Program. SPACEFISH is the experimental evaluation of a high-performance, fish-shaped re-entry vehicle. The first SPACEFISH will be realized by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in collaboration with SmartFish. Our flight from the balloon will take place in October 09.  The primary aim of the flight from the balloon is to assess the glider potential and the energy management control system of SpaceFish. The flight will be flown in an autonomous automatic mode including the landing. For more information about the SpaceFish project and the progress the students make please have a look here.