The European Space Agency is readying its first-ever “space plane” for sub-orbit for tests.
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is undergoing final ground tests, before being launched from Kourou in French Guiana.
The sneaker-shaped IXV will be launched from a Vega rocket to a height of 450 kilometres (280 miles) for a 100 minute flight test.
The IXV will then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 28,000 km/h over the Pacific Ocean, plunge into the water and then be picked up by a ship.
300 sensors in the IXV are set to collect flight data including the all important aerothermodynamics data for the heat shield.
Built from high-tech ceramics and carbon-fibre, and low-tech cork, IXV is 5.0 metres (16 feet) long and 2.2 metres wide, the same size as a medium-sized car.
The IXV was developed over five years at a cost of 150 million euros ($193 million), which is…
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