First successful flight for the ESA IXV demonstrator. And now?

IXV24 years after the first flight of the shuttle American space, Europe has launched into space its first demonstrator of shuttle, the IXV. A flight of 100 minutes but which marks the European space history of a white stone. Europe has proved that it control the cockpit of a spacecraft in its re-entry into the atmosphere. An important step, no doubt, but while the Chinese develop a rocket to send men to the Moon, or that Elon Musk seeks further still, Europeans will be able one day to launch a real space shuttle?

Mission accomplished for the little IXV

The IXV awaits his rescuers in the Pacific after its historic flight of February 11, 2015.

The IXV awaits his “Rescuers” in the Pacific after its historic flight of February 11, 2015.

The first flight of the IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) has therefore completed as planned by ditching in the Pacific ocean, 100 minutes after that a Vega rocket launched it from the Kourou base, 1 h 40 earlier. Officially, the flight parameters were nominal, demonstrating the ability to control the vehicle during atmospheric reentry and the qualities of the materials of the thermal shield of the demonstrator. The first flight to the Italian as accent the Vega Launcher is under Italian management, while the IXV was developed by Thales Alenia Space.
This unquestionable success comes 24 years after the first flight of the space shuttle and 30 years after the France proposed Europe to develop the Hermes project so that Europe can compete with the United States. Paradoxically, while the shuttles do flaps, Europe progresses that slowly and the IXV is finally less ambitious than the XB – 47 (b) of the U.S. air force or its ancestor Hermes.

The PRIDE program must provide a successor to the IXV

While the European economy is the step and the Germans seem reluctant to finance this conquest of space, this first flight of the IXV be a blow of the sword in the water? Simon Péter, Chairman and CEO of Thales Alenia Space is optimistic in its official release: “” this program PRIDE (Program for Reusable In – orbit Demonstrator in Europe) should give birth to a very close space drone of the current XB – 47B, it means a space drone able to deploy sensors, possibly intervene on a satellite in orbit and land on a traditional runway to be reused.

The principle of the design of PRIDE, the successor of IXV endorsed in December 2014.

The principle of the design of PRIDE, the successor of IXV endorsed in December 2014.

While the European economy is the step and the Germans seem reluctant to finance this conquest of space, this first flight of the IXV will be left a sword blow in water? In its official statement, Simon Péter, Chairman and CEO of Thales Alenia Space wants to be optimistic: ” thanks to data collected during the flight, we open the way to the development of new generation in Europe atmospheric reentry vehicles, and our company, which designed and built the IXV is today the European reference in this sector. ” Thales Alenia Space will offer again its expertise within the forthcoming European programme PRIDE, approved at the Ministerial Conference in December 2014, marking a significant step in the understanding of the technologies validated for atmospheric reentry systems. »
This program PRIDE (Program for Reusable In – orbit Demonstrator in Europe) should give birth to a successor to the IXV, a very close space drone of the current XB – 47B, it means a space drone able to deploy sensors, possibly intervene on a satellite in orbit and land on a traditional runway to be reused.
The last ministerial conference of ESA European space which had officially launched the programme Ariane 6 had seen France, Great Britain, the Sweden and the Spain support the building of the successor of IXV and endorse the programme PRIDE. Europe, at a time of budget cuts, will manage to complete these two projects to front?

Sources :

“ESA experimental spaceplane completes research flight”, ESA release

“IXV mission timeline”, ESA release

“L’Europa dice sì al lanciatore Ariane 6 e guarda a Marte”, Repubblica, Decembre 2, 2014

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