Hermès or the missed opportunity for Europeans to be independent in piloted flights

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In our articles, when dealing with topics related to European aviation, Futura often mentions the Hermès aviation program to show the time that has not passed for Europeans to be independent. flights today. . Of course, from this departure, it rainedESA he chose international cooperation – and therefore the commercialization of his astronauts – over the development of his automobile industry.

That said, the Hermès project cannot be reduced to this single failed idea, which can be explained by a lack of political will. Hermès also has a history, more than twenty years old, if it does not allow this small airplane to fly, however, it wants Europe to have the many technologies necessary for the human plane. In this area, Hermès has a lot of heritage.

To get an accurate idea of ​​the history of the Hermès project, from the first contributions to its departure, we used the release of bookstores. of the test at the Hermès program to meet its designer, François Leproux. This aeronautical engineer, president of the 3AF Grand Est group and specialist in the space sector, returns to the history of this aircraft, its causes and reasons for its failure and its technical heritage . An interesting interview.

Futura: what does Europe lack in providing itself with an air transport system?

Francois Leproux: If the lack of political will in Hermès cannot be denied, from a technical point of view, it is very emotional. In November 1992, when it was abandoned, it turned out to be technically and financially unfeasible under the conditions originally envisaged. There are many technical leaps to take. Arriving at the station of air transport is very desirable, as if Europe wanted to come from the TGV steam train without going through the capsule station to Like the Russians, the Americans are doing well today. China and SpaceX.

What Hermès lacks is that this program is not as cohesive as Ariane

What Hermès lacks is that, unlike the Ariane project supported by the fact that it will give Europe a unique freedom in space, this project is not the same as Ariane. Some countries do not understand the need for an airport.

For Italy and Germany, Hermès and manned aircraft are not approved. The project was identified as a non-profit engineering project in terms of Concorde.

There are different types of business. The division of labor between the ESA, government agencies and business operators is not fully completed, please. The basis of the program is very weak.

Business conflict? Is that the word?

Francois Leproux: You should know that Hermès is a French brand. When it comes to “Europeanising it”, the French government has already chosen its tools to implement it. Dassault-Breguet and Aérospatiale handled most of the aircraft’s development. A position respected by his European peers. France has been criticized for using the ESA to finance its expansionist ambitions. That said, the creation of EuroHermèspace is an interesting attempt to bring together French, German and Italian manufacturers in one building. After leaving Hermès, he had the privilege of founding Arianegroup.

In 1992, wasn’t the low-orbit context the target when it was decided to develop Hermès?

Francois Leproux: Yes. When it was decided to leave Hermès, the context had changed a lot since the end of the 1970s. The LEO-hub was thought of a few years earlier and could guarantee a permanent human presence inside. orbit The bass was not considered again for several years. In a way, those who think about thecoming out Protecting areas in low orbit with long-term use of the most advanced service methods ever! The LEO-Hub is becoming a reality desired by the arrival of actors from the newspace.

Aren’t the broken promises of aviation a hindrance to Hermès?

Francois Leproux: This is an important point. Initially, Hermès was designed to operate a small station in low orbit and return Earth objects produced in orbit. For the Europeans, it was impossible to arrive with a capsule while the Americans and the Russians were building a motor vehicle. At that time, the concept of the manned capsule was realized. In time, after several flights, NASA found out spaceship It is difficult and difficult to use so that one cannot go to the air like when one takes an airplane, the Hermès project is questioned.

The mace of Hermes?

Francois Leproux: It is a big problem in construction. The first major contributions for Hermès are based on the proposed work ofAriadne 5 with the ability to launch 15 tons into low orbit. As development progressed, the mass The airplane weighs 17 tons. After the car disappeared It’s difficult and its passengers, it was decided to add ejection seats. We have also provided Hermès with a separate module, a cone the packing and the bars, which made the plane heavy. The new concept of Hermès by Ariane 5 cannot be released anymore!

Hermès is very different from the American Shuttle. We are told that he corrected many of the “wrongs” of American aviation. So can we be surprised that NASA chose the spacecraft as planned?

Francois Leproux: it’s true. The main difference between Hermès and the airline is the integration with its distributor. The European airline is on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle not opposite, as in the case of the shuttle. This is the main advantage that Hermès is protected from the fall of waste (mousse insulation, ice for example) and when the launcher explodes, the crew is about 20 meters away, which can give them more chances to survive. In addition, the American aircraft carrier has another disadvantage to carry a large group and have the ability to take aircraft from the American military, or return them to Earth. There are two requirements that are detrimental to each other. In the case of Hermès, the payload was assigned to a conventional Ariane 5.

NASA realized that its choice was not suitable for the safety of the crew. He had to meet the requirements of the military that wanted to be able to launch the plane from Vandenberg, and return the largest cargo to orbit, so the size. loud voice from the hold of the Shuttle. The large cargo load forced engineers to fit the Shuttle with large delta wings rather than the straight wing that was originally intended, resulting in a safer vehicle than expected. done.

In terms of security, Hermès has sought more than 99.999% (the reliability of the Ariane 5 operator is 99%), 0.001 is covered with a release system, which lacks the Challengers were not killed in the car explosion. when he fell into the sea.

That said, despite leaving Hermès, his success has been a blessing in disguise for all of his projects.

Francois Leproux: it’s true. But not only in space. We can say pell-mell software o example in hypersonics, reliable facilities, third generation heaters, semi-supporting bodies, for example. Therefore, from the technological innovations of Hermès, projects such as theATVthe ARD and the Sailor. The IXV, the demonstrative The atmospheric re-entry is the project that has benefited the most from the developments initiated for Hermès (heaters, aerodynamic design in particular).

Regarding Hermès design, are Dassault’s choices good?

Francois Leproux: Yes. Originally known as the “American space mini-shuttle”, its appearance has gradually shifted to that of a delta-wing aircraft without any. empennage vertical, this is replaced by two winglets on the wing. A very good configuration that NASA saw in this idea proposed by Dassault, of a very thin wing with winglets in his successors who are closely related. Also, this design is adopted by spaceship programs such as the Dream Chaser. This arrangement was extensively tested in flight by the X-38 as part of the CRV program to launch a rescue vehicle for the people of theISS.

What other areas have benefited from Hermès?

Francois Leproux: We talk a little about it, but Hermès has been very quick to develop many technologies that are not in the public domain. An example is the Catia software from Dassault. Originally created for the Rafale fighter jet project, Hermès has strengthened its development. The development of fuel it has been expanded with Hermès, as well as the electric flight capabilities developed as the Airbus A320. It was used by ATV and is still used for Hermès’ satellites’ in-orbit steering and in-orbit docking algorithms. If, strictly speaking, Hermès did not give birth to new technologies, it should be noted that the project could be interested in establishing a sector in Europe in the field of flat cockpit screens.

Tomorrow’s Hermès?

Francois Leproux: I am sure that the European Space Agency will decide to give Europe access fall in space for its astronauts. The most intense clashes of the 80s between France, Germany and Italy are not clear today. Italy was a strong supporter and in Germany there were few opponents in the past.

Josef Aschbacher, the new Director General of ESA is promoting human flight. All lights are green, especially with heavy power ofAriadne 6, Europeans have a launcher that can launch a human vehicle that will actually be a capsule. Added to this was France, which took 1would be In January the presidency of the European Union can speed things up in view of the next ESA Ministerial conference scheduled for the end of 2022.

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