ESA’s spaceplane is getting ready to showcase reentry technologies. Instead of heading north into a polar orbit, as on previous flights, Vega will head eastwards to release the spaceplane into a suborbital path reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Final tests are being done on ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, IXV, launched in early November, to make sure that it can withstand the demanding conditions from liftoff to separation from Vega. IXV will flight test the technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future automated reentry vehicles returning from low orbit.
IXV tests. Credit: ESA
“The technical advancements that have been made since the first experiments with our Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator in 1996 are huge,” said Jose Longo, ESA’s head of aerothermodynamics. “This is the first flight demonstration of features such as highly advanced thermal structures: thrusters and flaps that are part of the control system, and the 300 sensors and infrared camera to map the heating all along the spacecraft from the nose to the flaps. These things just cannot be tested in the same way in laboratories.”
Launched into a suborbital trajectory on ESA’s small Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, the vehicle will return to Earth as though from a low-orbit mission. For the first time, it will test and qualify European critical reentry technologies in hypersonic flight, descend by parachute and land in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and analysis. Credit: ESA
IXV weighs almost two tons, close to Vega’s lifting capacity, and will be a tight fit inside the vehicle’s fairing. When IXV splashes down in the Pacific at the end of its mission it will be recovered by ship and returned to Europe for detailed analysis to assess the performance and condition of the internal and external structures. The actual performance will be compared with predictions to improve computer modelling of the materials used and the spaceplane’s design.
“In this mission we are not only monitoring the spacecraft all along its autonomous flight, but also tracking its progress back to Earth to a particular spot – this is different to what we are used to,” said Giorgio Tumino, ESA’s IXV project manager.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine
- Swarm Bots Kill Mass Shooter
- Unlocking The Secrets Of Nerve Regeneration
- Can A New Rule Trigger A Second EU Referendum? Petition 4 Millon Signatures, Nearly 12% Of Total Votes Cast
- Extinction: The Asteroid That Got The Dinosaurs Almost Got All Mammals Too
- Legions Of Immune Cells In The Lung Keep Legionella At Bay
- Human Early Visual Cortex Subconsciously Resolves Invisible Conflicts
- "New video to add to this article, astronaut Tim Peake spinning at very high speed in the ISS, not..."
- "A scientific approach is the only way one can really be assured that a treatment has merits. The..."
- "Bollocks! You will find the possible side effects listed are a exhaustive precautionary list of..."
- "Sorry, but even using the term allopath shows your bias. That is a term invented by the creator..."
- "Lets make something clear- most of you are arguing past each other on topics that are too broad..."
- Vice President Joe Biden Threatens the Scientific Community
- Why Some Sounds Make Us Cringe
- Over 100 Nobel Laureates Condemn Greenpeace for Opposing Golden Rice
- New Team Member: Dr. Alex Berezow
- New Investigation Will Examine Breast Cancer Recurrence Post Weight Loss
- DIY Biohacking: Unethical, Fringe and Probably Necessary to Advance Science
- Researchers find surface of Mercury arose from deep inside the planet
- Fire discovery sheds new light on 'hobbit' demise
- Synthesized microporous 3-D graphene-like carbons
- Country pledges overshoot Paris temperature limit
- Kaiser Permanente study: National rates of death due to heart disease, stroke leveling off