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EU Space Transportation

ESA Complete Spaceplane Test Flight; IXV Safely Returns To Earth 56

hypnosec writes The European Space Agency has successfully completed the first test flight of its Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), as planned, wherein it saw the wingless spaceplane land in one piece in the Pacific Ocean. A Vega VV04 rocket took the IXV to an altitude of 340 km, from which it separated 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. According to ESA the spaceplane few east around the globe during its descent and finally landed safely in the the Pacific Ocean west of the Galapagos Islands at about 15:20 GMT.
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ESA Complete Spaceplane Test Flight; IXV Safely Returns To Earth

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  • China, India, Europe, SpaceX, XCOR, and good old NASA...

    perhaps a bit of competition will bode well for space exploration development.

    It's probably not the incentive military superiority or corporate profit would be, but it's still promising.

    • Most of the agencies you listed cooperate with one another, but I totally agree that the more the merrier. Great to see the Europeans excited about space travel, and spending time and money on making vehicles cheaper.

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

      Don't forget Japan which has delivered cargoes to the ISS using their home-grown launcher. They also launched a spacecraft, Hayabusa deep into the Solar system to rendezvous with a comet and return particle samples back to earth. The Hayabusa-II followup mission launched in December 2014 and it plans to return samples of an asteroid as well as landing three small hopping "rovers" on it for close-up study of the surface.

  • I never thought I would live to see the day when other countries and agencies were moving forward with manned space flight, while NASA had to beg for a ride.

  • by Scyber ( 539694 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @09:01AM (#49037541)
    This just seems to be a different shape for a re-entry capsule more so then a plane. It uses a parachute and splashes down in water.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WillAdams ( 45638 )

      The term you are missing is "Lifting body" --- it has control foils and is able to steer in the air using them (as opposed to using thrusters as capsules must).

      • You know like the lifting body x-38 that was supposed to be the iss crew return vehicle that was canceled by congress.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Yeah, sort of, though IXV is much smaller (half the length and a fifth the weight). IXV is just a test vehicle, while X-38 was much closer to a realistic production spec.

          That said, I like the general concept. You get maneuverability and you can stretch out your deceleration time (aka, lower peak heating), but don't have to take a big mass or complexity penalty to do so. And of course, a key for simplifying reentry is "no bigger or heavier than absolutely necessary". Even the X-38 would have fit in side the

      • The Apollo capsule was somewhat of a lifting body as well (details here []). The capsule had an off-axis center of mass, which meant a canted entry angle. This generated lift, which was used to correctly position the capsule within the entry corridor. Judging from the slanted scorch marks on the Dragon capsule, it does the same thing, and presumably so will the Orion capsule if it ever gets to do a re-entry.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also, the long term goal is to have it land on conventional runways.

    • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Thursday February 12, 2015 @10:22AM (#49038113) Homepage

      The "plane" in "airplane" or "spaceplane" refers to the shape of the lifting body (i.e. the wing, technically the bottom of the wing). Just like your hand forms part of a geometric plane when outside that car window, so does the bottom of the wing form part of a geometric plane. It is this plane which forces the air down, hence the term "air-plane".

      Since this design generates lift by pushing the air down, it is a "something-plane".

  • and finally landed safely in the the Pacific Ocean

    Good thing there were no passengers, or they'd be in need of their IXV seat cushions which double as flotation devices just in the event of a water landing like this.

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