This week’s image is a display model of a Sänger II space plane, on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany:
While the U.S.’s space shuttle program is heading for the history books, it’s easy to forget that people have been trying to replace and surpass it since before it first flew. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the (originally West) German government pursued their own reusable launch vehicle studies. Here, they settled on a horizontal takeoff, two-stage-to-orbit approach — dubbed Sänger II after Eugen Sänger and his original concepts for spaceplanes.
Säenger II would have had a Hydrogen-fueled turbo/ramjet driven aircraft first stage, and a LOx / Hydrogen rocket second stage (with separate cargo and crew versions). Meanwhile, the first stage could have formed the basis for a subsequent hypersonic transport with global range.
Unfortunately for the people working this proposal (but fortunately for German taxpayers), accountants in Germany were held in higher regard than those in the U.S. In 1994, it was estimated that development of the Sänger II would have been extremely costly, while at best it could reduce costs (vs. expendable launch vehicles) by no more than 30% — leading to the cancelation of this decade-long study.