ESA's IXV Demonstrates Reusability
The European Space Agency (ESA) IXV spaceplane lifted off at 10:40 a.m. local time Feb. 11 from Europe’s French Guiana spaceport in Kourou. Lofted atop an Italian Vega rocket, the experimental technology demonstrator separated from its launcher at an altitude of 340 km and continued up to 412 km. Reentering from this suborbital path, it recorded a vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors. As the 5-meter, 1,840-kg craft maneuvered to decelerate from hypersonic to supersonic speed, its reentry was recorded at 7.5 km/per sec. at an altitude of 120 km—the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit. The IXV splashed down in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands, where it was retrieved by Italy's Nos Aries recovery ship.