Airbus could well go down the same route we've seen SpaceX take and make some nearly successful expeditions, suggesting that future versions of the EU's Ariane launcher could one day come with self-landing boosters that could be refuelled and sent back up again.
This is great news for those hoping for lower prices in the space-tourism industry by the time they can legally cash in their pension pots, and was announced after a tour of the Airbus facility, where visitors were told about some of its plans for the future. In the near term that means the Ariane 6 launcher, which is proceeding as planned and should be taking those critical GPS satellites we will surely rely upon to get from pub to pub into space from about 2020.
After that, though, Airbus foresees some reusable additions could be made to its reliable space bus series, with tests underway of a reusable system it calls Adeline. Adeline simply adds a UAV module to the booster, effectively letting it fly itself home like a drone.
Francois Auque, head of space systems at Airbus Defence and Space, said: "...it is absolutely normal that in parallel we begin to think about what will be the evolution of Ariane 6, because if we don't already pave the way for those evolutions we will not be in a position to implement them somewhere between 2025 and 2030." [BBC]