Successful launch and splashdown! ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle

The European Space Agency (ESA)’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane launch-reentry mission was a big success! At approximately 6 am PT (2 pm GMT) on February 11, IXV launched atop a Vega rocket from the Guiana Space Center (Kourou, French Guiana), and splashed down in the South Pacific at 7:20 am PT (3:20 pm GMT).

This is the 4th launch of a Vega; all have been successful. These launches have shown that the Vega can launch different payloads in different orbits, which has tremendous scientific and commercial significance. This is also the 45th mission by Arianespace.

This is a very large collaboration: Thales Alenia Space Italia was the prime contractor building the IXV, with over 40 companies, universities, and research institutes involved.

The mission tested several of IXV’s parameters: its wingless spaceplane shape; the thermal protection systems, which incorporate ceramic and ablative; and its advanced automated guidance and navigation system for reentry and landing.

This mission is a big step in the ESA’s development of re-entry technology. Congratulations to the ESA, Arianespace, Thales Alenia Space Italia, and all collaboration efforts!

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