Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle

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"IXV" redirects here. For the IATA code, see Along Airport.
Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle
Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle.jpg
Artist's view of IXV reentry phase.
Operator ESA
Major contractors Thales Alenia Space Italy
Mission type Reentry technology demonstration
Launch date 18 November 2014 [1]
Launch vehicle VEGA
Launch site Kourou ELV
Landing site Pacific Ocean
Homepage ESA Reentry technologies
Mass 1,800 kilograms (4,000 lb)
Orbital elements
Regime Suborbital
Altitude 450 kilometres (280 mi)
References: [2][3][4]

The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is a European Space Agency (ESA) experimental re-entry vehicle intended to validate European reusable launchers which could be evaluated in the frame of the FLPP program.[5] The IXV development would be carried out under the leadership of the NGL Prime SpA company.[4] It would inherit the principles of previous studies such as CNES' Pre-X and ESA's AREV (Atmospheric Reentry Experimental Vehicle).


IXV uses a lifting body arrangement with no wings of any sort, using two movable flaps for re-entry flight control. Re-entry is accomplished in a nose-high attitude like the Space Shuttle, with maneuvering accomplished by rolling out-of-plane and then lifting in that direction, like an aircraft. Landing is accomplished by parachutes ejected through the top of the vehicle. The airframe is based on a traditional hot-structure/cold-structure arrangement, and is supported on-orbit by a separate maneuvering and support module similar to the Resource Module intended for the Hermes. The avionics are controlled by a LEON2-FT microprocessor, and interconnected by a MIL-STD-1553B serial bus.[6]

On December 18, 2009, ESA announced a contract with Thales Alenia Space valued at 39.4 million euros to cover 18 months of preliminary IXV work.[3][7] Initially scheduled to make its first orbiting flight in 2013,[8] the current plans are to launch the IXV during October 2014[9] by a Vega rocket,[10] the ESA’s new small launcher, descending to the Pacific Ocean for later recovery and analysis of the recorded mission data.[11] The total estimated cost for the project is 150 million euros.[2]


Data from ESA,[2],[8] Gunter's Space Page[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: None
  • Capacity: None
  • Length: 5 m (16.4 ft)
  • Wingspan: 2.2 m (7.2 ft)
  • Height: 1.5 m (4.9 ft)
  • Empty weight: 480 kg (1,058 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 1,900 kg with propulsion module (4,188 lb)
  • Power: Batteries


Pre-launch testing[edit]

The IXV's subsonic parachute system was tested at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in late 2012.[12] Water impact tests were conducted at Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche's INSEAN research tank near Rome.[13]

On June 21, 2013 an IXV test vehicle was dropped from an altitude of 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) in the Salto di Quirra range off Sardinia. The test was to validate the water landing system including the subsonic parachute, floatation balloons, and beacon deployment. A small anomaly was encountered when inflating the balloons, but the other systems performed as expected. After the test the vehicle was taken for further analysis.[14]

On June 23, 2014 the recovery ship Nos Aries conducted a training exercise with an IXV test article off the coast of Tuscany.[15]

In June 2014 the IXV test vehicle arrived at the ESTEC Technical Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, to undergo a rigorous test campaign to confirm its flight readiness in anticipation of a flight on a Vega rocket in November.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Spaceport keeps pace with Arianespace's busy mission cadence". Arianespace. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "IXV e-book" (PDF within a ZIP). European Space Agency. 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  3. ^ a b Peter B. de Selding (2009-12-18). "ESA Spending Freeze Ends with Deals for Sentinel Satellites, Ariane 5 Upgrade". Space News. Retrieved 2011-11-04. "The contract is valued at 39.4 million euros to cover preliminary IXV work for 18 months, Fabrizi said." 
  4. ^ a b c Gunter Dirk Krebs. "IXV". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  5. ^ "New milestone in IXV development". ESA. 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2011-11-04. "The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), under ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), is the step forward from the successful Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator flight in 1998, establishing Europe’s role in this field." 
  6. ^ Enrique Rodríguez, Pablo Giménez, Ignacio de Miguel, Vicente Fernández (2012-09-25). "SCOE for IXV GNC". Simulation & EGSE Facilities for Space Programmes (SESP 2012). European Space Agency. 
  7. ^ "ESA and Thales Alenia Space establish agreement for development of Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)". ESA. 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  8. ^ a b Rob Coppinger (2011-06-13). "Europe Aims to Launch Robotic Mini-Shuttle By 2020". Retrieved 2011-06-16. "In 2013, a Vega rocket will carry ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle into space." 
  9. ^ "Europe's IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator ready for final tests". 2014-03-24. Retrieved 2014-03-26. "The launch, using Europe's new Vega light launcher, is scheduled for October 2014." 
  10. ^ "Vega to fly ESA experimental reentry vehicle". ESA. 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2011-12-16. "The launch of ESA’s IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle on Europe’s new Vega rocket is now in detailed planning, a major step towards the craft’s flight in 2014." 
  11. ^ "ESA’s IXV reentry vehicle prepares for soft landing". ESA. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2012-11-16. "it will fly the experimental hypersonic phase over the Pacific Ocean, descend by parachute and land in the ocean to await recovery and analysis." 
  12. ^ "ESA's IXV Reentry Vehicle Prepares for Soft Landing". ESA. 9 Nov 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  13. ^ A. Iafrati. "Water impact and hydrodynamic loads". Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Safe splashdown for IXV". ESA. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Bringing back our Spaceplane". ESA. 2014-06-24. Retrieved 2014-06-30. "Yesterday, the ship and crew aiming to recover Europe’s unmanned IXV spacecraft in November had a practice run off the coast of Tuscany, Italy." 
  16. ^ "Unboxing IXV". ESA. 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2014-07-02. "The moment when ESA’s IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle is removed from its protective container, safely inside the cleanroom environment of the Agency’s Technical Centre." 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]