The high cost of launching payloads into Earth orbit is a main limiting factor on the development of space. In order to reduce the high cost of launch, reuse of (parts of) the launch vehicle is needed. This study analyses the possibilities of recovering and reusing the core stage of Ariane 5. Recovery of the core stage sets demands on re-entry trajectory, attitude, stability, thermal protection, structural strength, terminal deceleration, salt water protection, recovery and refurbishment. All these subject areas require solutions to their individual problems. Added subsystems to the stage are defined and their mass is determined. These masses are used to determine the financial feasibility of the recovery concept, by weighing the payload demise and operational cost against the gains of reduced production cost. It is concluded that the recovery is technologically feasible, using a detachable ablative heat shield on the nose of the stage and a stabilisation device (an inflatable drag cone), a parachute system and an engine enclosure device. Total mass of these systems is 1320 kg, with financial savings amounting to $8.5 million per flight.
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Buursink, J. Launch cost reduction by the reuse of the core stage of Ariane 5. Journal of Reducing Space Mission Cost 1, 209–223 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012068017876