We’ve watched SpaceX try (and fail and fail) a rocket on a drone barge. But for the past five years, Airbus has taken a different tack for a reusable rocket of its own. The French company is building a system that makes the rocket itself more like a drone.
It’s called Adeline, and Airbus just offered a peek at how this next-gen rocket system will work. For now, Adeline exists as a neat idea and a bunch of computer renderings. Unlike the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket system—which returns to Earth after launch with some reserve fuel to land upright on a drone barge—Adeline will dump all stages except the rocket engine itself. As the winged rocket engine returns to Earth, it sprouts little propellors that guide it to a runway. Just like any old unmanned aerial vehicle!
Don’t expect to see Adeline land—or attempt to land—any time soon. Airbus says it will be ready between 2025 and 2030. In the meantime, the company is perfecting its Ariane 6 rocket. You probably didn’t even realize that the same company that makes A380s also makes rockets—and they’re pretty good rockets, too.
Correction (12:00 pm): An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to Airbus as a British company. It is French. The post also implied that Airbus makes the Dreamliner. Boeing makes the Dreamliner.
Image via Airbus