The European Space Agency is planning the development of the IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle planned to be operating by 2013. This is a re-usable space vehicle that can lift up to 450 kilometres into the upper atmosphere before re-entering the Earth`s atmosphere and braking with parachutes before splashing down into the Pacific ocean and awaiting recovery. This is what we need to revitalize the space industry that was going very well with the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, but today it is facing a decline with the American economy going downhill and the imminent retirement of the Space Shuttle. The dream of a Star Trek future is looking bleak today, but with the European Space Agency developing this craft and looking to develop their own space vehicles that future could come true. The warp drive shown in Star Trek will not be a reality though, that is a work of pure fiction like the countless other space drives thought of in fiction throughout history. the Star Trek warp drive would need infinite energy to accelerate a space vehicle to the speed of light or c. That value is 299,792,458 metres per second or 186,282 miles per second. it requires infinite energy to accelerate a spaceship to this speed as it has mass, but a photon or light particle does not have any mass at all and it does not require much energy to accelerate to reach c. The light from the Sun takes only 8 minutes & 19 seconds to reach Earth from the Sun at this speed. Getting back to the space vehicle. it seems to use a booster to get it up into space, which is discarded every time it is launched and does not seem to be re-usable. But if it could splash down into the ocean and be recoverable, then that would be cheaper than building a new booster every time you want to launch. A craft that had the booster module built into it would be the best idea, but I am not sure if that is really possible as the craft would be pretty large to land again on land, although this craft is launched on top of ESA’s small Vega rocket and this is discarded as it reaches maximum altitude.
The Space Shuttle had two solid rocket boosters and a huge hydrogen tank that were discarded as it reached altitude, this is the same thing I guess, except the craft is only discarding one booster instead of two rockets and a giant tank. The craft only weighs 2 tonnes and is to test various technologies during it`s maiden voyage, such as advanced ceramic and ablative thermal protection. The long-term goal of this experiment is to develop a replacement for the Space Shuttle and create a low-cost re-usable re-entry vehicle for operating and servicing payloads in orbit before returning to touch down on land. This will be better than using rockets every time some astronauts want to go to the International Space Station and relieve staff that have done a stint in space. The space industry needs a cheap and reliable vehicle that can easily reach the International Space Station and re-supply the station as well as enable the change-over of staff easily. We need to conquer space and eventually build a base on the Moon, that can be resupplied easily from Earth, a giant radio telescope on the dark side of the Moon would be shielded from the radio chatter from Earth and enable greater observation of space than ever before. If we could move away from spending billions of dollars on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars then we could have more to spend on space and helping the disenfranchised and poor in the world but that seems to be a low priority in these days of constant war and terrorism. Once we can move away from that into a brave new world of peace and unity of all nations then we can concentrate on space exploration instead of killing each other mindlessly.