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ESA reentry vehicle on track for flight in 2013

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ESA and Thales Alenia Space Italia announced an agreement today at the Paris Air & Space Show to begin building the IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle for its mission into space in 2013.

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 goal will be achieved with IXV, which is the next step from the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator flight of 1998. More manoeuvrable and able to make precise landings, IXV is the ‘intermediate’ element of Europe’s path to future developments with limited risks.

Launched into a suborbital trajectory on ESA’s small Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, to test and qualify new European critical reentry technologies such as advanced ceramic and ablative thermal protection.

The 2 t lifting body will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing it to reach a velocity of 7.5 km/s on entering the atmosphere. It will collect a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while it is being controlled by thrusters [...]