Author Topic: SUSIE, (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration) concept from ARIANE  (Read 24238 times)

Offline Asteroza

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All the errors of Hermes, repeated 40 years later. The managers and system engineers of Hermes are still around, these guys should have talked to them.

Sorry, but most of them are in fact no longer around. That is: a lot of them have retired or moved on to other businesses. And industries like Airbus et al. do not make a habit of asking the opinion of their retired engineers and managers before launching (pun intended) another bad idea.

But I fully agree with you that SUSIE is repeating all the errors of Hermes. Starting with the unrealistic wet mass of just 25 metric tons for a vehicle that is 5 meters in diameter, is 12 meters long, has a crew compartment for 7 AND also having a 40 cubic meter payload bay AND a 7 metric ton payload capacity. That does not add up. Throw in a multi-ton propellant load and engines strong enough to land the entire thing propulsively and it does not add up AT ALL. Much like the numbers never added up for the initial 10 development iterations of Hermes. And when they finally DID start to add up for Hermes, the vehicle had lost most of its originally promised capabilities.

If SUSIE remains marrried to a 25-ton-to-LEO launcher, than it will start losing capabilities and capacities fast, once they start to seriously develop this contraption.


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From my reading of the press release SUSIE would be either crew or cargo but not both, which makes it sound a lot like Dragon2. Also the press release said 5 crew not 7. The video showed a kick stage thus answering how a 25 t craft could be launched on Ariane 6. I am curious how SUSIE will do a propulsive landing, though.

Video shows both a docking/airlock module (which appears to be connected to the front with some sort of port and is symmetrical so has an aft port too) and an unpressurized cargo in the bay, along with a EVA astronaut.

So I get the feeling it's nominal arrangements are airlock+cargo, airlock+airlock (sorta like double SpaceHab on the shuttle) unless they go for a double length airlock module, and potentially an open double length bay for cargo (but that means the pressurized space forward is inaccessible? I guess that would be a grapple only arrangement without berthing?)

The odd spaces on the side of the payload bay look ideal for 3U cubesat dispensers.

Offline hektor

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Going through my old brochures from Le Bourget Air Show of the early 90s...

The final version of Hermes, which was "the most feasible" but which was not closing the loop in terms of performance was 23 t, with a crew of 3 and a payload of 3 metric tons. 1 ton in the space plane and 2 tons in the expendable module called MRH which was disposed of at the end of the mission.

Here we have 25 t with a crew of 5 or(*) a payload of 7.5 tons. We do not have the wings but we have the propellant to reenter, descend and land. Something does not add up here.

(*) I say or and not and because I want to be fair but I think the presentation is a bit ambiguous on that.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 06:47 am by hektor »

Offline john smith 19

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All the errors of Hermes, repeated 40 years later. The managers and system engineers of Hermes are still around, these guys should have talked to them.
And Hermes was bascially modelled on the X20 Dyna-soar.

Which also got cancelled due to unforseen weight growth (among a bunch of other reaasons, but it didn't help).

You'll note the video give no idea of how this vehicle is going to re-enter the atmosphere. Since it has no wings it's closest resemblance is Crew Dragon, but with powered landing.

Well what do you know? The first crew Dragon flight was in 2020.

It seems the French are copying concepts from the more recent past than they used to.

I supposed we should call that progress?   :(

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Offline john smith 19

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In addition, it may be a way for ArianeGroup to extend its' monopoly on launchers in Europe (again) since I suspect that there won't be an open competition to chart a way forward on european crewed vehicles (the discussion will be largely political, and probably occur already at the C-MIN22 in November).
An open competiton?

What an intriguing notion.  Who knows who might step forward in such an environment?

Quote from: Xentry
Lots of taxpayer money will follow, likely without any benefit in cost of access to space unless explicitly forced by other ESA members (because Ariane 6 + Susie will still be a lot more expensive than the partially reusable Falcon9 + Dragon).
True, but it's not about cost, it's about guaranteed access, and there is a history of the US denying access to space launch when it's economic well being (or more accurately the well being of a US business) is threatened.
Quote from: Xentry
Europe cannot afford the kind of waste that NASA can, and this sure looks expensive. Let's see what the next steps are.
Indeed.
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Offline libra

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Not easy to grasp this concept inner workings. Here is my own take, for what's its worth.

- Present Ariane 6 is boosters + Vulcain core + hydrolox second stage. And so SUSIE would go on top of that as a versatile upper stage (third or fourth stage, depends if you count the boosters as a "stage 0").

- I remember that Ariane 5 is kind of similar: boosters (big ones) with a Vulcain core stage. But the hydrolox stage could be either deleted (for LEO missions like Envisat or ATV) or replaced by an Aestus.

- sooo : can Ariane 6 fly without that hydrolox second stage ? and then SUSIE would fly like an Aestus or an ATV, top of the core;  with some internal propulsive capability but not too much.

- Next step would be to replace the main core and its boosters with something akin to a F9R booster (MAIA, is that thou ?) , with a much stretched and heavier SUSIE on top; and boom, fully reusable TSTO.

- Still I doesn't find that path very convincing, there are some performances gaps here and there...
It looks like a slightly chaotic path toward a Falcon 9 -size BFR-Starship system. 

I suppose SUSIE propulsion system is storables ?   the closest thing from it in Ariane / ESA / CNES history then would be Aestus and ATV (and de facto: Orion propulsion module as it loosely derives from ATV)

Yeah feels like an atempt at creating some kind of hybrid of ATV, Aestus, and Hermes.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 08:58 am by libra »

Offline hektor

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I think nowadays this European crew system could be competed.

Potential bidders : the "twins" Airbus and ArianeGroup (for instance the European Service Module of Orion is Airbus, not ArianeGroup, while SUSIE is ArianeGroup), Thales Alenia Space (lots of experience in pressurized modules, prime contractor of Gateway habitat iHab), the Marco Fuchs galaxy of companies in Europe (OHB, etc).

And potential "new" entrants : Dassault Aviation (with their Hermes background) and The Exploration Company (the company of Hélène Huby).

You can build at least two, maybe three competing consortia with these.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 09:24 am by hektor »

Offline woods170

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Effectively, if SUSIE is approved by minister's council, it will be in the same delays than Ariane NEXT. But I don't know if Ariane NEXT will be capable to launch a 25T spaceship. I have see on an Arianespace document the maximum payload will be about 20T.
SUSIE has some of its own propulsion, right? It could do the circularization burn.

Not if it also needs the same propulsion to do the deorbit burn AND land propulsively, all within a wet mass budget of max. 25 metric tons while having a crew cabin for 5 AND a 40 cubic meter payload bay with airlock for EVA AND other unpressurized cargo.

The projected capabilities and the wet mass don't match. That is UNLESS the vehicle, after reaching orbit, goes to a propellant depot first. Needless to say: a propellant depot was not mentioned during the ArianeGroup presentation.

So this thing, if considered for actual development, will be going down the same road as Hermes: once the engineers start adding up the numbers the mass will go up, which requires the capabilities and size going down to get the mass numbers back down to where they can meet the launch capabilities of the projected launch vehicle.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 09:51 am by woods170 »

Offline woods170

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From my reading of the press release SUSIE would be either crew or cargo but not both, which makes it sound a lot like Dragon2. Also the press release said 5 crew not 7.

Emphasis mine.

Correct. That is my bad. I mixed up the numbers for crew and metric tons of cargo returned. Crew is five. Metric tons of cargo returned is seven.
Thanks for pointing out.


The video showed a kick stage thus answering how a 25 t craft could be launched on Ariane 6. I am curious how SUSIE will do a propulsive landing, though.

The video showed the Vinci-powered ULPM, which is not a kick stage but the standard upper stage of Ariane 6. The video also mentions that SUSIE would launch on Ariane 64 Evolution, which has a predicted payload-to-LEO capability of 25 metric tons.


What I doubt (and so does Hektor if I read his posts correctly) is that the given capabilities of SUSIE, as presented in the video and press release, fit within the 25 metric ton wet mass limit. I think that they don't fit.

Offline woods170

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All the errors of Hermes, repeated 40 years later. The managers and system engineers of Hermes are still around, these guys should have talked to them.
And Hermes was bascially modelled on the X20 Dyna-soar.

Which also got cancelled due to unforseen weight growth (among a bunch of other reaasons, but it didn't help).

You'll note the video give no idea of how this vehicle is going to re-enter the atmosphere. Since it has no wings it's closest resemblance is Crew Dragon, but with powered landing.

Emphasis mine.

Think IXV and Space Rider: lifting body reentry.

Offline Try_NBS

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As we can see on the presentation video, the spacecraft will be launch with an Ariane 6. But i think they can launch it on an Ariane NEXT, if it has the payload capacity, with a second stage with  a Prometheus Vaccum engine. It's adaptable.

Offline Timber Micka

From my reading of the press release SUSIE would be either crew or cargo but not both, which makes it sound a lot like Dragon2. Also the press release said 5 crew not 7.

Emphasis mine.

Correct. That is my bad. I mixed up the numbers for crew and metric tons of cargo returned. Crew is five. Metric tons of cargo returned is seven.
Thanks for pointing out.


The video showed a kick stage thus answering how a 25 t craft could be launched on Ariane 6. I am curious how SUSIE will do a propulsive landing, though.

The video showed the Vinci-powered ULPM, which is not a kick stage but the standard upper stage of Ariane 6. The video also mentions that SUSIE would launch on Ariane 64 Evolution, which has a predicted payload-to-LEO capability of 25 metric tons.


What I doubt (and so does Hektor if I read his posts correctly) is that the given capabilities of SUSIE, as presented in the video and press release, fit within the 25 metric ton wet mass limit. I think that they don't fit.

The renderings do not show Ariane 6 Evolution but the standard version of the rocket, which cannot launch SUSIE into orbit. The renderings used for the presentation are not intended to be faithful to reality but to give an idea of ​​what SUSIE would look like in operation.
Currently, Ariane 6 Evolution is supposed to use the new composite Icarus upper stage and the improved P120+ boosters.

I don't know why people in this thread are freaking out over deliberately ballpark numbers. This is only a concept developed internally by ArianeGroup who are, it should be noted, the operators of Ariane and not spacecraft design specialists.
If ESA is interested in this concept, they will have the project carried out by Airbus/CNES/DLR/Dassault/etc who will carry out a much more in-depth study.

This animation is as representative of the final product as that of the ITS presented by SpaceX in 2016 is representative of Starship.

Offline hektor

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People like me are freaking out not only about the figures but about the narrative behind them.

This is based on history of Hermes. The original sins of Hermes are well known, they were there from the start and eventually killed the project.

The solution defined a priori : it had to be a space plane
The non standard launcher interface
The performance conundrum : the mass was increasing (like in any space project) and Ariane 5 was marginal from the start and trying to catch up.
The addition of requirements not directly related to transportation of crew to LEO : the vehicle had to have an airlock, separate from the cabin, carry EVA suits, the vehicle had to carry three tons of payload at launch, both unpressurized and pressurized, the vehicle had to carry a robot arm, etc
etc...

and some of the features outlined in this presentation remind me these.

« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 01:24 pm by hektor »

Offline Robotbeat

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Effectively, if SUSIE is approved by minister's council, it will be in the same delays than Ariane NEXT. But I don't know if Ariane NEXT will be capable to launch a 25T spaceship. I have see on an Arianespace document the maximum payload will be about 20T.
SUSIE has some of its own propulsion, right? It could do the circularization burn.

Not if it also needs the same propulsion to do the deorbit burn AND land propulsively, all within a wet mass budget of max. 25 metric tons while having a crew cabin for 5 AND a 40 cubic meter payload bay with airlock for EVA AND other unpressurized cargo.

The projected capabilities and the wet mass don't match. That is UNLESS the vehicle, after reaching orbit, goes to a propellant depot first. Needless to say: a propellant depot was not mentioned during the ArianeGroup presentation.

So this thing, if considered for actual development, will be going down the same road as Hermes: once the engineers start adding up the numbers the mass will go up, which requires the capabilities and size going down to get the mass numbers back down to where they can meet the launch capabilities of the projected launch vehicle.
25t is the dry mass budget.
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Offline hektor

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I hope not. I hope it is the mass at launch.

Offline Oli

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They call it upper stage yet the upper stage is expended. For cargo it only reuses the fairing, for manned flights it's arguably too big.

I don't get it.

Offline woods170

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Effectively, if SUSIE is approved by minister's council, it will be in the same delays than Ariane NEXT. But I don't know if Ariane NEXT will be capable to launch a 25T spaceship. I have see on an Arianespace document the maximum payload will be about 20T.
SUSIE has some of its own propulsion, right? It could do the circularization burn.

Not if it also needs the same propulsion to do the deorbit burn AND land propulsively, all within a wet mass budget of max. 25 metric tons while having a crew cabin for 5 AND a 40 cubic meter payload bay with airlock for EVA AND other unpressurized cargo.

The projected capabilities and the wet mass don't match. That is UNLESS the vehicle, after reaching orbit, goes to a propellant depot first. Needless to say: a propellant depot was not mentioned during the ArianeGroup presentation.

So this thing, if considered for actual development, will be going down the same road as Hermes: once the engineers start adding up the numbers the mass will go up, which requires the capabilities and size going down to get the mass numbers back down to where they can meet the launch capabilities of the projected launch vehicle.
25t is the dry mass budget.

No, it is not. 25 Metric tons is the wet mass. "Wet", because is has liquid propellants loaded. Dry mass always refers to the vehicle mass without propellants onboard. Spacecraft basics 101.


SUSIE is launched on Ariane 64 Evolution, which can carry at most 25 metric tons to LEO. Launching a SUSIE that has a 'dry' mass of 25 metric tons will result in a vehicle arriving on orbit that cannot do anything, because there are no propellants onboard.

To have SUSIE deorbit from LEO as well as propulsively land it on Terra Firma, requires carrying multiple tons of propellant. All of which are already onboard when the vehicle is launched, given that no orbital depot is involved in the presented SUSIE architecture. The multiple metric tons of propellants therefore are a considerable part of the 25 metric tons mass budget.
Dry mass of SUSIE will therefore need to be considerably LESS than 25 metric tons.
« Last Edit: 09/20/2022 02:59 pm by woods170 »

Online Barley

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True, but it's not about cost, it's about guaranteed access, and there is a history of the US denying access to space launch when it's economic well being (or more accurately the well being of a US business) is threatened.
Cost matters for commercial purposes.  Guaranteed access at too high a price does nothing for a business that has competitors with much lower costs.

Effectively, if SUSIE is approved by minister's council, it will be in the same delays than Ariane NEXT. But I don't know if Ariane NEXT will be capable to launch a 25T spaceship. I have see on an Arianespace document the maximum payload will be about 20T.
SUSIE has some of its own propulsion, right? It could do the circularization burn.

Not if it also needs the same propulsion to do the deorbit burn AND land propulsively, all within a wet mass budget of max. 25 metric tons while having a crew cabin for 5 AND a 40 cubic meter payload bay with airlock for EVA AND other unpressurized cargo.

The projected capabilities and the wet mass don't match. That is UNLESS the vehicle, after reaching orbit, goes to a propellant depot first. Needless to say: a propellant depot was not mentioned during the ArianeGroup presentation.

So this thing, if considered for actual development, will be going down the same road as Hermes: once the engineers start adding up the numbers the mass will go up, which requires the capabilities and size going down to get the mass numbers back down to where they can meet the launch capabilities of the projected launch vehicle.

Unless they go directly to the Ariane NEXT...
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Offline woods170

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Effectively, if SUSIE is approved by minister's council, it will be in the same delays than Ariane NEXT. But I don't know if Ariane NEXT will be capable to launch a 25T spaceship. I have see on an Arianespace document the maximum payload will be about 20T.
SUSIE has some of its own propulsion, right? It could do the circularization burn.

Not if it also needs the same propulsion to do the deorbit burn AND land propulsively, all within a wet mass budget of max. 25 metric tons while having a crew cabin for 5 AND a 40 cubic meter payload bay with airlock for EVA AND other unpressurized cargo.

The projected capabilities and the wet mass don't match. That is UNLESS the vehicle, after reaching orbit, goes to a propellant depot first. Needless to say: a propellant depot was not mentioned during the ArianeGroup presentation.

So this thing, if considered for actual development, will be going down the same road as Hermes: once the engineers start adding up the numbers the mass will go up, which requires the capabilities and size going down to get the mass numbers back down to where they can meet the launch capabilities of the projected launch vehicle.

Unless they go directly to the Ariane NEXT...

In which case SUSIE won't fly for at least another 12 years...

Offline john smith 19

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All the errors of Hermes, repeated 40 years later. The managers and system engineers of Hermes are still around, these guys should have talked to them.
And Hermes was bascially modelled on the X20 Dyna-soar.

Which also got cancelled due to unforseen weight growth (among a bunch of other reaasons, but it didn't help).

You'll note the video give no idea of how this vehicle is going to re-enter the atmosphere. Since it has no wings it's closest resemblance is Crew Dragon, but with powered landing.

Emphasis mine.

Think IXV and Space Rider: lifting body reentry.
So nose first, not rear end down, like Dragon or Starliner. More like DC.

Really does feel like Hermes deja vu.  :(

And I hate nostalgia  :(

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