Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hermes spacecraft - 1979 early draft

I think that the Hermes program, that runs from 1977 to 1993, is one of the longest, most passionate and eventually the most frustrated development of a spacecraft ever started.
There was a lot of hiccups all over this project.
Some technical issues first, that added some weight constantly over the time. It gave challenges to both the airframe and the booster.
Some political fights then between the main fund-raisers of ESA the European space agency in charge of Hermes. The British, the French and the German strongly disagree on the direction to go.
And last, some financial issue that put a stop to the work when the budget over exceeded all initial forecasts and the fundraisers decided to close their wallets.

But let's go back to 1977.
That year while the space shuttle Enterprise underwent its first free atmospheric test flight, CNES, the French space agency initiated a pre-study of a tiny space plane that could carry  European astronauts into orbit.
The plane was to be launched atop an Ariane rocket à la Dyansoar/Titan booster. But while the Ariane 1 was at that time in its final development stage (its maiden flight was in 1979) CNES envisionned a much more powerful launcher variant, the Ariane 5/H, to lift off Hermes.

In 1979, CNES presented a set of blueprints and artist rendering to the press.
The plane was 12,5 meters long with a wingspan of 8 meters and weighted 10 tons. It could carry 5 astronauts or 2 astronauts and a 1,5 tons payload. While much smaller it had a similar double delta wing shape as use on the US space shuttle.

I based my CAD modelling on this 1979 material and tried to imagine what would be that small bird into orbit.

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