The Reusability Flight Experiment (ReFEx) is a technology demonstrator for future winged, reusable stages. This artistic representation shows ReFEx in its re-entry configuration after it has been launched from its carrier rocket.

DLR manages the ReFex (Re-usability Flight Experiment) project, investigating alternative approaches for winged reusable launch vehicles with re-entry capabilities. Instead of a vertical landing, the test focuses on the horizontal landing of a stage, with autonomous navigation and controlled flight during each phase of the vehicle’s mission. The vehicle is stabilized using an active aerodynamic control system, which transforms inputs from the navigation system and the guidance into control commands for the individual actuators. A demonstration flight is planned for 2023 from Koonibba Test Range, Australia.

 Refex is one of two projects with which DLR is researching the reusability of carrier systems. Callisto (Cooperative Action Leading to Launcher Innovation in Stage Toss back Operations), however, uses a different technology in which it takes off and lands vertically. Compared to an actual operating system, both RLV demonstrators are quite small, but they will provide key data and insights about necessary technologies. This information will inform a decision on which system would best suit Europe’s needs. Developing a new rocket generally takes 10 to 15 years, so the necessary technologies must be made available to keep pace with the stiff competition in the rocket market.

Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
Manuela Braun · E-Mail


DLR – RLV Demonstrator – IAC CyberSpace Edition
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