The European Space Agency is preparing to launch next week a small, reusable spacecraft, which should make its first trial launch outside the atmosphere.
The intermediate experimental apparatus or IXV, the size of which reaches the size of a family car and is shaped like a cone, like the retired NASA Shuttle, a military robotic spacecraft X-37B and a reusable manned spacecraft developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation.
“It is different from a capsule,” said Roberto Angelini, IXV Program Manager, in an interview with European Space Agency. The so-called “body lift” form allows the vehicle to interact with the atmosphere, creating lift, like an airplane, but without wings.
During its trial launch, the IXV will reach an altitude of about 250 km (orbit altitude of the International Space Station) thanks to a 98-foot four-speed Vega rocket.
The launch is expected between 8 and 10 am EST on February 11 from the European cosmodrome in Kourou, French Guiana, located on the northeast coast of South America.
The IXV, which weighs about two tons, should reach a speed of about 16,800 miles per hour while diving into the atmosphere on the way back.