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FROG, an Innovative Collaborative Project on Rocket Reuse

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
November 28, 2020
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The experimental rocket in flight. (Credit: CNES)

This experimental rocket offers a learning and development platform in the field of reusable launchers. It is developed within an associative framework bringing together CNES and university, scientific and industrial partners.

PARIS (CNES PR) — Combining in the same program a high-level collaborative and educational project and an agile experimental approach around the reuse of a miniature launcher. These are the ambitions of the FROG initiative , launched by CNES with university and association partners and start-ups. 

The program consists of developing an experimental vehicle to test guidance, navigation and control (GNC) algorithms allowing its takeoff, stable vertical flight at low altitude and landing. By bringing together contributors from various backgrounds and specialists in their field, it aims to learn to work and innovate differently, and to harness new energies and ideas outside the traditional frameworks of space programs. 

2 Miniature Rocket Prototypes

The project includes the production of two prototypes of launchers 3 m high and 25 cm in diameter , and the development of software programs to make them take off and land vertically.

The first, powered by a model-making fighter jet turbojet capable of pushing 40 kg vertically, has already carried out several captive flights, connected to a gantry, to carry out the first phases of validation of the CNG algorithms, then, in October 2020, free flights up to about thirty meters high at the Brétigny-sur-Orge flight test center. 

“These tests, piloted by Badr Rmili, validate the intelligence of this miniature rocket, its ability to fly stably and land automatically,”  explains Jérémie Hassin. 

The second vehicle, currently in development, will be powered by a monoergol rocket engine running on hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), supplied by the Polish Lukasiewicz institute. The objectives are similar, but with a more representative prototype of a launcher.

“At the end of the test campaigns, this demonstration program will be completed. On a small scale, educational and associative, it will have contributed to our learning about the reuse and handling of hydrogen peroxide, ” said Jérémie Hassin. 

And as such, its results could be useful for the CNES reuse roadmap, in particular through the Callisto  and Themis programs foreshadowing the launchers of the future. 

Did You Know?

The FROG program brings together around the CNES volunteer contributors from all walks of life, engineers, researchers, students and members of associations. The project partners are the association for popular education in science and technology Planète Science, the IUT of Cachan via its fablab and incubator Innovlab , and the innovative companies Polyvionics,  Drones-Center and Sonatronic.

2 responses to “FROG, an Innovative Collaborative Project on Rocket Reuse”

  1. duheagle says:

    The “FROG initiative,” eh? The name is very apropos for a project involving small things making small hops. It might also indicate that there exists at least one Frenchman possessed of a self-deprecatory sense of humor – something not famously abundant within the borders of La Patrie.

    Still, it’s good to see that Europe in general, and France in particular, is capable of the sort of bottom-up, shoestring, enthusuast-led efforts the U.S. saw starting about two decades ago in the form of Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceX and Masten. There’s even a hint of the sort of cheeky humor that these American organizations have always displayed.

    As with the larger, formal, top-down programs Europe has recently ginned up aimed at competing – eventually – with U.S. NewSpace, this “popular front” mini-version starts out a couple decades behind. But I think my money would be on FROG to make up the ground a lot faster than the “serious” coat-and-tie efforts being still rather half-heartedly pursued by European space officialdom.

    • Wishyouwerehere says:

      Well summarised; I always think these sort of low-budget projects pay their way in many ways more than direct benefit because they give the junior engineers a chance to show their credentials and learn, rather than waiting their to climb the greasy-pole in the major league projects. Keep them motivated and getting experience in the nuts-and-bolts of running all aspects of a project without having to blow through a huge amount of cash

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