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Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) Launch
February 11, 2015
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project is developing and flight-testing the technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future autonomous controlled reentry for return missions from low Earth orbit.
IXV will be injected into a suborbital path by a Vega rocket (W04) launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. IXV will separate from Vega at an altitude of 320 km. It will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing it to reach a speed of 7.5 km/s when reentering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 km – fully representative of any return mission from low orbit. It will collect a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while being controlled by thrusters and aerodynamic flaps.
The craft will then deploy a parachute to slow its descent for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and analysis.
The complete mission will last for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Based on the knowledge gained from IXV, ESA’s future focus may lead to building an affordable reusable craft capable of operating modular payloads for multiple applications in various orbits before it returns to Earth to touch down on a conventional runway.