The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Rider program has officially begun its validation and testing phase, as it prepares for a maiden flight in the third quarter of 2025. Space Rider is Europe’s reusable uncrewed robotic laboratory that will provide an “end-to-end integrated space transportation system” for commercial customers. After launching into space, Space Rider will spend two months in orbit while customers complete experiments and technology demonstrations onboard, before returning to Earth.
Space Rider was originally set to begin flights end of this year after having received funding in 2019; however, several delays have pushed back its inaugural launch. Yet, entering into Phase D marks a significant step toward launch as ESA is preparing for several drop tests to validate the capability of Space Rider’s autonomous landing algorithms.