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We welcome back Joost, who tells us more about Susie, ArianeGroup’s all-new concept for a smart, reusable upper stage, compatible with Ariane 6 and the subsequent generation of European launchers
Who or what is Susie
J v T: Susie is our concept for a space module that replaces the top part of the launcher (it has a very similar shape), and will be able to perform atmospheric reentry and soft landing. It can be equipped with life-support and cruise control systems, so that it can be used as a crew transport vehicle.
How does Susie get into orbit?
Susie is injected by the launcher just like any other payload. Once it released, it either remains in orbit or it travels onwards to a space station to dock and transfer cargo and/or crew. Or it could service other space objects or platforms.
How do you adapt a launch for crewed flight?
First of all you need a highly reliable launcher – and that’s exactly what we’ve got with the Ariane rocket. Secondly, it needs to be equipped with a rigorous monitoring system. Then, you put the Susie module on the top. And Susie uses this monitoring system to know exactly how everything is going, and if something does not present according to plan, it can activate the crew escape system.
How long does a mission last before returning to Earth?
We could of course have Susie return immediately, but that would be a pity when we can do so much more. I would say that a normal orbital mission would last about two weeks. However, if Susie goes to dock with a space station, it would typically remain there for six months before detaching for return to Earth.
How do you see space exploration in the future with Susie?
In the future I really see a fleet of Susies in different versions, be it for cargo, for human transport, or for specific in-orbit servicing missions.
I think that we will have a whole infrastructure in space with space stations, orbital platforms for various purposes such space data centers or solar power stations, factories, and assembly hubs for large-scale space exploration vehicles and the Susie fleet which will service these hubs and supplying them with fuel, equipment, and operators.