Europe’s IXV Spaceplane Returns to Earth

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Esa's IXV Spaceplane

Europe’s prototype versatile spaceplane has returned to earth after a successful first test flight.

The lifted off from the pad just after 13:40 GMT on board a Vega rocket from South America.

The Spaceplane flew east around the earth before descending back down to earth and splashing into the Pacific Ocean at around 15:20 GTM.
Europe’s IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) Spaceplane is designed to gather information on how objects in space fall back to Earth.

Esa director-general Jean Jacques Dordian said

It couldn’t have gone better. But the mission itself is not over because now it’s necessary to analyse all the data gathered during the flight.

When the IXV Spaceplane re-entered the earth’s atmosphere it was travelling at 7.5km/s (4.6miles/s). During re-entry the surface of the spaceplane got as hot as 1,700C.

The IXV spaceplane is an Italian red project with the European Space Agency. It is 5m long and weighs almost 2 tonnes.

When it comes to re-entry technologies the USA and Russia are at the top of the chart which Europe wants to change and it’s hoping with the data it can obtain from the IXV spaceplane can give it the knowledge and expertise to make this happen.

Esa’s project manager Giorgio Tumino said in a quote:

So if we are to close the circle – go to orbit, stay in orbit, come back from orbit – we need to master this third leg as well as other spacefaring nations.

Esa already had another follow-on spacecraft which has been approved – This new spaceplane looks very similar to the US military’s X-37B mini shuttle.

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