Kenya starts a space agency

Successful test flight of ESA's IXV

11/02/20151717 views7 likes

The IXV has successfully completed its mission aimed at building independent European capacities for re-entry into the earth's atmosphere for future reusable space transportation systems. ESA's “Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle” or preliminary experimental spacecraft completed a smooth re-entry maneuver with subsequent splashdown in the Pacific Ocean west of the Galapagos Islands.

The IXV was launched yesterday, February 11, at 2:40 p.m. CET (10:40 a.m. local time) on board a Vega launcher from Europe's Kourou space airport in French Guiana. It was separated from its launcher at an altitude of 340 km and then rose to 412 km. In the second part of its suborbital flight, it collected a wealth of data with its more than 300 partly conventional, partly complex sensors.

During its descent, the five-meter-long and two-tonne spacecraft throttled its hypersonic speed back down to supersonic speed.

During the re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, the speed at an altitude of 120 km was 7.5 km / s, so the flight conditions corresponded to those of a spacecraft re-entry from near-earth orbit.

After a successful re-entry into the atmosphere, the IXV's parachutes opened to slow the spacecraft down further so that it could land safely on the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The mission control center in the Turin Center for Space Technology, ALTEC, was responsible for monitoring the mission. This is where the flight and instrument data from the various ground stations were received, including stations on the mainland, such as Libreville in Gabon and Malindi in Kenya, as well as the mobile receiving station on the salvage ship Nos aries belong in the Pacific.

Balloons kept the IXV afloat until it was brought on board by the salvage ship in order to be examined in detail at ESTEC, the technical center of ESA in the Netherlands, after its return.

Mastering re-entry maneuvers will open up completely new perspectives for ESA, because it is a fundamental prerequisite for reusable carrier stages, the return of samples from other planets and the return of astronauts from space, but also for future missions in the fields of earth observation , weightlessness research and the maintenance and disposal of satellites.

The first results of the flight should be announced in about six weeks.

The evaluation of the flight data will benefit the European Reusable Orbital Demonstrator (PRIDE) program, which is currently being prepared with the funds approved at the last two ESA Ministerial Councils. The reusable PRIDE spacecraft will be launched with Europe's small Vega launcher, put into orbit and then automatically touch down again on a runway.

With the IXV, ESA is breaking new ground in terms of re-entry capacities and reusability, ”said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. "ESA and its member states, together with the European space industry, are now in a position to face new challenges in several areas of space transportation, such as future launch vehicles, robotic exploration and manned spaceflight."

"With this mission we will gain valuable experience about the technologies necessary for new, especially reusable, launch systems," noted Gaele Winters, ESA Director for Spacecraft Carriers.

“The mission was short, but it was very effective,” announced IXV project manager Giorgio Tumino. "The advanced technologies that we demonstrated today, as well as the data collected by the sensors on board the IXV, will open new avenues for Europe to realize ambitious plans for a wide range of space transportation applications."

Image and film material on the rescue operation in the Pacific will be made available as soon as the ESA receives the relevant data from the rescue ship.

The images are available under the following link:

The highlights of the start are available for download on ESA TV's FTP server:

Login: esa
Password: ftp4esa

A crucial stage for the Vega

This launch was also an opportunity for the new Vega launcher to showcase its impressive capabilities and flexibility in adapting to a wide range of missions.

Since its maiden launch in 2012, the Vega has reduced its operational costs, brought its first payloads into orbit for commercial customers, and demonstrated various capabilities of the carrier, such as double take-offs and launching into different orbits.

Today's mission is the first time Vega has put its payload into equatorial orbit, rather than going north for polar orbits as in previous missions. In addition, the IXV was the heaviest Vega payload to date.

About the Vega

The Vega is Europe's preferred launch system for the introduction of small payloads between 300 and 2000 kg, such as science or earth observation satellites, into low and / or polar orbits.

The costs for the carrier operated from French Guiana are kept as low as possible thanks to its simple construction and deployment concept, the use of the latest technologies and the synergies with the existing Ariane production facilities.

At the ESA Ministerial Council in December 2014, funds were approved to support the deployment and to build a further developed version, the Vega-C, which will demonstrate higher performance and enable greater synergies, since the first stage of the Vega is also used in the new Ariane heavy-duty carrier. 6 will be used, which can reduce recurring costs. The maiden flight of the Vega-C is planned for 2018.

ESA is responsible for the development of the launcher and the ongoing accompanying research and technology program for Vega (VERTA), which aims to demonstrate the versatility and flexibility of the Vega.

The main contractor for Vega is ELV, a joint venture between the Italian space agency ASI and Avio.

More information about Vega is available from this link:


Further information can be obtained from:

ESA Media Relations Unit
Email: [email protected]
Tel .: +33 (0) 1 53 69 72 99

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