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Europe's IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator arrives in Kourou

09/29/2014 | by Thales

Europe's IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator arrives in Kourou
© Thales
IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle), the European Space Agency’s atmospheric reentry demonstrator, developed and integrated by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor, arrived today at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, initiating preparations for the launch, scheduled for this coming November.

Thales Alenia Space is in charge of the IXV vehicle design, development and integration and heads a consortium comprising major European manufacturers, research centers and universities. The Italian Space Agency has strongly supported Italian leadership and Italy’s significant involvement in the project.

The IXV demonstrator features advanced aerodynamics thanks to its lifting body design, which also maximizes maneuverability. It is fitted with a sophisticated guidance, navigation and control system that uses aerodynamic automated control surfaces during the atmospheric reentry phase, plus a heat shield to withstand the searing heat of reentry.

IXV will be launched by Arianespace onboard the VEGA European launch vehicle. The IXV will separate from Vega at an altitude of 320 kilometers, then continue its ascent to 412 kilometers. It will then begin its reentry, during which experimental data will be collected by the spacecraft's complete instrument suite. During atmospheric reentry, it will reach a speed of approximately 7.7 km/s at an altitude of 120 km, a typical profile for reentry from low Earth orbit (for example, from the space station's orbit).

The mission will last approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Following the parachute descent phase, it will culminate with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The data collected during the mission will make an extraordinary contribution to the development in Europe of new-generation reentry vehicles.

The ground segment is being developed at the same time. The Mission Control Center, developed and operated by ALTEC in Turin, will be at the heart of the entire mission. ALTEC technicians will track the mission in real time, coordinating the ground stations during the IXV flight. They will also coordinate naval recovery operations after splashdown.

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