coondoggie writes "Looking to take a giant step toward taking part in low Earth orbit transportation, exploration and servicing of orbiting space structures, the European Space Agency today said it would team with Thales Alenia Space Italia to begin building an experimental spacecraft for launch in 2013. 'The 2t 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 (PDF) during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while it is being controlled by thrusters and aerodynamic flaps.'"
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