CLOSE TO THE EARTH
The CLOSE project aims to build a technological prototype opening the access to the missions at Very Low Earth Orbit. The goal is to design a low mass vehicle – below 500 kg with the propulsion system and payload – with an adequate operating life (i.e., at least three years). For the Consortium, the design of the vehicle and its subsystems will be a significant challenge.
Recent engineering studies have developed a new concept of space propulsion called RAM-E.
The CLOSE aims to prototype this new RAM-EP propulsion system and its main components. The main subsystems will be an atmospheric gas collector and a Hall effect engine (i.e., electric propulsion). So doing, the system will use the gases present in the atmosphere as fuel, thus enabling space operations at very low orbits (i.e., the ones below 250 km). The project also aims to prototype a new “small” class spacecraft (less the 500 kg) useful to host this RAM-EP system.
Second, the project will also study new space applications and services and new payloads – both optical and radar – which will be enabled by the VLEO orbiting.
All of the above was never done before.
Hence, CLOSE aims, first, to realize the RAM-EP system, which will be able to compensate for the aerodynamic resistance at low orbits. The electrically-powered thruster will collect, ionize, and speed up the flow with enthalpic properties at VLEO conditions. Second, to create a manifold able to compress the incoming flow passively. Its operativity must be compatible with the results obtained from the activities on the mission analysis. Third, to evaluate the feasibility of a space vehicle that will host the RAM-EP system fulfilling all the mission requirements (required power, mass, and dimensions), through the application of systems engineering processes and methodologies.
Finally, CLOSE aims to study a mission configuration with optical and SAR payloads, which will take advantage of the VLEO orbits.
CLOSE to the Earth can have a significant impact in the Space sector, both for electric propulsion application and for Earth observation services.
- The main effects on the Territory will be:
- increase the competitive skills of the Consortium through the scientific and technological know-how improved;
- increase in investments in sectors with very high added value;
- raising the technical-scientific level of the industrial activities of the Apulia Region;
- high level of qualified employment, both direct and indirect;
- specific know-how on the Territory in a high-tech sector, which is strategic from a national point of view;
- consolidation of technical-scientific relationships with the regional Scientific Network (University and Research Bodies).
- The use of VLEO orbits, and their Earth observation services, would have crucial impacts on the society and environment.
Project manager: Manuela Matarrese
Total cost: € 9 million
Project start and end: October 2018 – duration 30 months
For more information: email@example.com
Applicant (lead): Aerospace Technology District scarl – Brindisi (BR);
Implementing members: Polytechnic of Bari (acronym POLIBA) – Bari;
Sitael SpA – Ospedaletto (PI), Mola di Bari (BA);
Enginsoft SpA – Mesagne (BR);
ENEA – Brindisi (BR);
CNR – Bari, Lecce;
University of Salento – Lecce;
Planetek srl – Bari (BA);
Blackshape SpA – Monopoli (BA);
Co-Proponents: University of Bari “Aldo Moro” – Bari (BA); GAP srl – Bari (BA); IMT srl – Bari (BA).