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Ariane 6 to Launch SpaceCase SC-X01 for Heat Shield Demonstration
SpaceCase SC-X01 is built by ArianeGroup, the same company behind the Ariane 6 rocket that will launch it into space. Staying attached to the rocket's upper stage for the most part of its three-hour mission, SpaceCase will detach just minutes before the upper stage deorbits and head for a fiery controlled destruction in Earth's atmosphere.
Ariane 6 to Launch SpaceCase SC-X01 for Heat Shield Demonstration
by Erica Marchand
Paris, France (SPX) Jun 07, 2024

Europe's newest rocket, Ariane 6, is set to launch soon, carrying multiple space missions with diverse objectives and destinations. The first flight of Ariane 6 will demonstrate its versatility and flexibility as a heavy-lift launcher. This article focuses on SpaceCase SC-X01 and highlights other missions on board.

Among the various missions, two have unique objectives compared to the other satellites: they aim to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceCase SC-X01, built by ArianeGroup, will be launched by the same company's Ariane 6 rocket. During its three-hour mission, SpaceCase will stay attached to the rocket's upper stage before detaching minutes prior to a controlled deorbit and destruction in Earth's atmosphere.

While the upper stage is designed to burn up harmlessly, SpaceCase SC-X01 is engineered to withstand the intense heat generated during re-entry at speeds of 28,000 km/h.

Most spacecraft use ablative materials for heat protection, which burn off in layers to manage heat buildup. SpaceCase SC-X01 employs a different approach with its carbon resin NAXECO heat-protective shield, which also serves as the capsule's structure. This design reduces weight, simplifies construction, and lowers costs.

Shortly after detaching from the Ariane 6 upper stage, SpaceCase will experience external temperatures reaching 2400 C. The goal is to maintain internal temperatures below 60 C for the avionics or future samples.

"For us actually it won't be hot enough, says Jerome Bertrand, ArianeGroup project lead for SpaceCase and planetary landing expert, "our material can handle more such as Mars or Moon return with re-entry speeds greater than 40,000 km/h, but for an Earth reentry this is as high as we can expect the temperatures to rise.

To minimize costs and production time, SpaceCase features a simple design. Its aerodynamic shape ensures that the heat shield faces downward during re-entry. The demonstrator's innovations aim to validate the design and test the materials.

SpaceCase will reach terminal velocity and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at 250 km/h. Inside, avionics will record heat shield temperatures and trajectory data, transmitting this information to the project team via satellite. There are no parachutes, and the hardware recovery is planned for future missions.

"The 'Do Not Open - Property of ArianeGroup' written on SC-X01 is just in case it washes up on shore. We wanted to keep this project small, for a rapid, quick turnaround, says Jerome, "for this project the learning process to get SpaceCase built quickly was as important as the data we will get, we are a lot like YPSat in this regard.

"It is very motivating for teams to work on these types of projects, concludes Jerome, "by building SpaceCase SC-X01 we have already given scientists ideas, just recently after a conference somebody came to me and said they would like to use SpaceCase to install a mass spectrometer inside our capsule to do some science when performing an atmospheric entry on Jupiter.

Related Links
Ariane at ESA
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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Europe's long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket set for July 9 launch
Paris (AFP) June 5, 2024
The next-generation Ariane 6 rocket, a crucial programme for Europe's space ambitions, is due to lift off on July 9 following years of delays, the European Space Agency said Wednesday. The launch will take place in Europe's spacesport in Kourou, French Guiana, which borders Brazil. The inaugural flight was originally planned for 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic and repeated technical issues have kept it on the ground, depriving Europe of an independent way to send heavy missions into space. A ... read more

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