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The University of Southampton

Research project: CANOPUS: low cost access to space

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CANOPUS is a proposed new concept of space launch operations designed to lift very light payloads over the Kármán line (the edge of space, at 100km above ground level) at a considerably lower cost than current systems, as well as offering the potential of near-immediate launch slot availability.

Funded by the UK Space Agency, Project CANOPUS aims to cut the cost of access to space by placing the 'launch pad' in the upper troposphere. The CANOPUS system comprises a self-launching, optionally piloted, high altitude glider (sailplane), which acts as a launch platform for a low cost, low weight rocket. The low ambient pressure (and density) at launch height means that suborbital space flights can be achieved by light payloads atop rockets of much reduced mass, complexity and cost compared to conventional ground-based systems. In addition to the low cost, an attractive feature of the planned system is that it slashes the lead time of suborbital (and at a later stage, orbital) launches, as the glider requires no special ground facilities and it can be deployed at very short notice – potentially of the order of hours.

CANOPUS is part of the ASTRA (Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft) initiative.

Associated research themes

Computational Engineering

First in Flight

Related research groups

Computational Engineering and Design

ACADEMIC UNIT: Aeronautics, Astronautics and Computational Engineering

FACULTY: Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

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