POLARIS Raumflugzeuge
POLARIS Spaceplanes

The Aurora Launch Vehicle


In the 1990s the ESA-funded FESTIP-study identified the essential economic advantages of horizontal-launched, rocket-propelled and reusable space transportation systems. The resulting "Hopper" concept was further investigated in the German ASTRA-study, and with the "Phoenix" a subscale demonstrator was flown in 2004.

These ground-breaking works formed the basis and the starting point for the development of the Aurora-launcher, beginning in 2015. Aurora adopts the most promising elements of the Hopper approach. This is combined with latest technologies, and an innovative and highly economic-oriented vehicle design and mission architecture.

Aurora Launch Vehicle

Aurora is a horizontal-launched space transportation system that utilizes aircraft-like runway take-off and landing. The winged main stage is fully reusable. A small internally accommodated upper-stage is the only expendable element (≈5% of the total system dry mass). 

The propulsion system is based on oxygen/kerosene rocket engines for ascent, and turbine engines for return flights, ferry flights and emergency mission aborts.

The airframe uses lightweight composite primary structures, and the latest robust and low-maintenance heatshield technologies.

Missions & Applications

The initial Aurora configuration is an unmanned small launch vehicle. The target missions include:

  • Serving the small satellite launch market (primary mission)
  • Suborbital science & research
  • Hypersonics technology testing

Following the unmanned version, a manned configuration will be derived for:

  • Serving the space tourism market
  • Astronaut training & human research

The long-term roadmap targets a whole family of vehicles of different sizes and for different applications, including large single-stage-to-orbit launchers.


Aurora will reduce the costs of space transportation by at least a factor of 2-3 compared to state-of-the-art launchers in the same market segment. This is achieved by:

  • Minimization of expendable equipment
  • Minimization of operation costs due to "aircraft-like" operations
  • Design for minimum maintenance 

The combination of the innovative vehicle design with aircraft-like operations furthermore provides fundamental improvements in:

  • Flexibility & availability
  • Robustness & autonomy
  • Safety (mission abort capability)

Technical data of initial configuration:

  • Vehicle length:                                                        28 m
  • Vehicle wingspan:                                               15.2 m
  • Upper-stage separation velocity:               3.5-4 km/s
  • Upper-stage separation altitude:                  >110 km
  • Maximum payload to low earth orbit:         >1000 kg