The key-objective of the FALCon-project is raising the TRL of the advanced RLV-stage return mode using the “in- aircapturing”-procedure from currently at approximately 3 at least beyond 4, approaching a TRL of 5. This ambitious goal can be reached by successfully addressing the following subtasks: 1. In-flight demonstration of “in-air-capturing/mid-air-retrieval”-technologies with subscale vehicles while as far     as possible approaching the relevant flight environment and conditions. 2. Developing the necessary sensors and integrating their data and software to be used in-flight for an autonomous     successful and rapid connection of the two stages. 3. Establishing an accurate 6DOF-simulation environment both for the planned flight tests as well as for the      future full-scale “in-air-capturing”-application. 4. A sound assessment of the in-air-capturing”-launch cost reduction potential by identifying suitable large-scale     capturing aircraft and evaluating the necessary modification effort considering regulatory issues. 5. Studying in parallel alternative RLV-return modes under similar assumptions for reliable assessment of the      potential benefits. 6. Proposing a European development roadmap, first up to TRL of 6 and then estimating the effort for reaching the     full-scale operational system with TRL of 9. This task is to be iterated jointly with the European stakeholders in     agencies and industry. Here you see the “in-air-capturing”-Development Roadmap:
© DLR, German Aerospace Center, Bremen/Germany