The European Space Agency is readying its first-ever “space plane” for sub-orbit for tests.
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is undergoing final ground tests, before being launched from Kourou in French Guiana.
The sneaker-shaped IXV will be launched from a Vega rocket to a height of 450 kilometres (280 miles) for a 100 minute flight test.
The IXV will then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 28,000 km/h over the Pacific Ocean, plunge into the water and then be picked up by a ship.
300 sensors in the IXV are set to collect flight data including the all important aerothermodynamics data for the heat shield.
Built from high-tech ceramics and carbon-fibre, and low-tech cork, IXV is 5.0 metres (16 feet) long and 2.2 metres wide, the same size as a medium-sized car.
The IXV was developed over five years at a cost of 150 million euros ($193 million), which is in keeping with the new approaches to space flight. The main purpose of the test is to come back safely.
This inexpensive shuttle would be very welcome and could be very lucrative for the ESA, as there are no other nations currently this far along with a shuttle replacement.
– Ex astris, scientia –
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