IXV recovery Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

IXV recovery
Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

 

Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) – an experimental spaceplane – plopped down in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands.

The European Space Agency vehicle was launched Feb. 11 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop a Vega rocket.

The craft carried some 300 sensors to record its performance during a high-heat reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

IXV recovery Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

IXV recovery
Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

Measuring 16 feet (five meters) long and weighing two-tons, the craft flew a trajectory that enabled it to reach speeds that mimicked the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit.

IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The entire flight lasted approximately 100 minutes.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

Pilot mission: PRIDE

This IXV mission tested cutting-edge system and technology aspects to provide Europe with an independent reentry capability. The vehicle is considered a building block for reusable space transportation systems. It will also validate designs for lifting-bodies.

According to ESA, the IXV incorporates both the simplicity of capsules and the performance of winged vehicles, with high controllability and maneuverability for precision landing.

Such a capability is a cornerstone for reusable launcher stages, sample return from other planets and crew return from space, as well as future Earth observation, microgravity research, satellite servicing and disposal missions.

The results from the test are to be fed into the ESA’s “Program for Reusable In-Orbit Demonstrator for Europe,” long-speak for PRIDE – a reusable spaceplane.

 

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