Next month, Ray Wilkinson's team at the University of Hertfordshire will be flying a sub-scale version of the EARL, with rocket propulsion, and remote guidance by radio control, at an amateur rocketry site in Cambridgeshire, UK. This vehicle will have a hull length around 1.5m, some three times larger than the unguided EARL-D2 (pictured to the right), which flew in 2011.
Theoretical studies of the EARL design will continue at the University of Hertfordshire, using "MATLAB", an industry standard software package; this will run simulations on the physics of the EARL design.
The EARL-D3, an all-electric 1m-long demonstrator, has been constructed and will be tested when the weather becomes suitable. It will be used for aerodynamic stability tests in flight. Design work on the EARL-D4 is being carried out by a collaborating company in Romania, and test flights to a maximum expected altitude of 35km are expected to take place in October or November. Subject to sufficient funding being found, the work will continue next year with a three-hull launch, which could put one of the hulls above 100km, into space, taking a small payload.
The Spacefleet EARL Project will demonstrate that a payload can be lifted into space (later, into orbit) at low cost, using three near-identical autonomously-piloted, rocket-powered lifting bodies, which can be re-used many times.