Development Roadmap


The ALV project has been structued into five phases in order to reduce risk and development cost. Three precursor vehicles of increasing complexity will developed, each tailored to proving key aspects of the ALV system architecture. Completion of the precursor test programmes will be followed by the development and operation of the actual ALV-3 small satellite launch vehicle:

  • Phase 0: Conceptual & Preliminary Design of ALV-3 (the actual small satellite launcher).
  • Phase 1: Development and testing of ALV-0 and ALV-1 (small scale test vehicles)
  • Phase 2: Development and testing of ALV-2 (full envelope test vehicle)
  • Phase 3: Limited operation of the ALV-2 in support of micro satellite launches and flight tests
  • Phase 4: Design, manufacture and testing of ALV-3
  • Phase 5: Commercial operation of ALV-3

Phases 0, 1 and 2 are being executed as advanced academic research projects that aim to reduce risk and prove concept feasibility at minimal cost. Phase 3 is envisaged as a crossover phase where the project will potentially become self-sustaining. Phases 4 and 5 will likely need to be commercial endeavours.

The following paragraphs give a short overvierw of the vehicles that will be developed in Phases 1 and 2. More information is available on the detail page for each vehicle.

The ALV-1 Small Scale Demonstrator

The goal of the ALV-1 precursor is to demonstrate several key concepts of the ALV system architecture, including vertical ascent, deployable wing, automated powered return and horizontal landing. The ALV-1 is being developed in close cooperation with students from ESTACA Space Odyssey (ESO) and TECSA in Paris.

The ALV-1 will also be used to qualify the avionics and software sub-systems for future use on the much larger ALV-2 and –3 vehicles. Work on the small scale ALV-1 commenced in 2013, and a first flight (in aircraft mode) is planned for 2016. 

The ALV-1 is designed using an ultra low-cost approach. Only the minimum effort is being put into the development of sub-systems that cannot be scaled to the larger vehicles and which are not key goals of the phase (e.g. the rocket propulsion system). Commercial offerings are used for such sub-systems. Conversely, significant effort is put into those areas that directly affect the phase goals. But at all times the vehicle is being designed to be as simple as possible to manufacture, operate and maintain.

Before the ALV-1 will be flown, and even simpler and lower cost aircraft-only version will be constructed and tested. This ultra-low cost demonstrator is named the ALV-0, and is currently being manufactured. The first flight of the ALV-0 is planned for the end of 2015.

The ALV-2 Full-Envelope Test Vehicle

The goal of the much larger ALV-2 is to fully prove the operational concept of the ALV flyback boosters by completing the entire ALV-3 first stage trajectory, from launch to landing. Unlike the ALV-3 however, this will be achieved at a significantly reduced cost by employing simplified and ultra-low cost design and manufucturing techniques. The ALV-2 will be signficantly smaller than the ALV-3 boosters, but will utilize the same avionics and will share some sub-systems with the ALV-3.

The ALV-2 promises to be a revolution in the field of reusable space vehicle research. On the one hand it is sufficiently small and simple to be developed as an academic project, but on the other hand it will be powerful enough to launch micro satellites to Low Earth Orbits.This is a very fine balance to achieve, and we believe the current ALV-2 conceptual design does exactly that.

Furthermore, the ALV-2 will hugely increase the scope for applied hypersonics research, since it will be capable of launching sizeable hypersonic test vehicles to trajectories that can currently only be achieved by means of full-scale launchers (at massive cost of course). This will offer hypersonics researchers a flight test envelope that is not achievable through sounding rockets, at a cost that is at least an order of magnitude cheaper than using a full-scale launcher. With this in mind, ALV-2 is being developed specifically as the flyback booster for the SPARTAN scramjet accellerator prototypes.

The ALV-2 is currently in the conceptual design phase, which is entirely self-funded. Heliaq is also actively establishing further international partnerships and soliciting funding for the ALV-2 preliminary and detail design phases.