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ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) ready for launch and reentry mission

esa-intermediate-experimental-vehicle-ixv-ready-for-launch-and-reentry-mission

ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is ready for its launch and reentry mission on February 11, 2015. The launch is scheduled for 13:00 UTC atop a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Europe’s ambition for a spacecraft to return autonomously from low orbit is a cornerstone for a wide range of space applications, including space transportation, exploration and robotic servicing of space infrastructure.

This IXV mission will test cutting-edge system and technology aspects to provide Europe with an independent reentry capability, and a building block for reusable space transportation systems.

It will validate designs for lifting-bodies, incorporating both the simplicity of capsules and the performance of winged vehicles, with high controllability and manoeuvrability for precision landing.

IXV. Image credit: ESA/J.Huart

After separating from Vega 320 km above Earth, the five-meter-long, two-tonne vehicle will climb to a height of around 450 km and then descend for reentry, recording a vast amount of data from a large number of conventional and advanced sensors.

ESA's IXV reentry vehicle. Image credit: ESA-J. Huart, 2012

After maneuvering to decelerate from hypersonic to supersonic speeds, IXV will deploy a multistage parachute to slow the descent further. Flotation balloons will keep it afloat after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered by a ship for detailed analysis.

The entire flight will last about 100 minutes.

XIV mission overview. Image credit: ESA–J. Huart

The knowledge gained from the IXV mission will be key in ESA’s future plans involving applications requiring controlled atmospheric reentry. PRIDE mission is proposed as a follow-up.

It will focus on system and technology performance verification in all flight conditions (i.e. hypersonic, supersonic, transonic, subsonic). This will be achieved through an end-to-end European orbital mission with landing on a conventional runway.

PRIDE mission. Image credit: ESA-J. Huart, 2012

Applications for controlled atmospheric reentry vehicles

  • Reusable launchers stages (lower and upper),
  • Robotic exploration (for example, sample return from Mars or asteroid),
  • Servicing of orbital infrastructures (for example, International Space Station),
  • Servicing of future generation satellites (for example, in-orbit refuelling or disposal),
  • Microgravity experiments (for example, optimum time/cost ratio),
  • Earth sciences (for example, high-altitude atmospheric research),
  • Earth observation (for example, crisis monitoring).

Live streaming of this event starts at 12:45 UTC on February 11, 2015.

Featured image credit: ESA

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