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ESA’s IXV spaceplane, launched on a Vega rocket on 11 February 2015, on its way to Europe for detailed study in Italy.
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle flew a flawless reentry and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands.
It lifted off at 13:40 GMT (14:40 CET, 10:40 local time) on 11 February from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana atop a Vega rocket. It separated from Vega at an altitude of 340 km and continued up to 412 km. Reentering from this suborbital path, it recorded a vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors.
As it descended, the five-metre-long, two-tonne craft manoeuvred to decelerate from hypersonic to supersonic speed. The entry speed of 7.5 km/s at an altitude of 120 km created the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit.
IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. It was then recovered and hoisted onboard the Nos Aries recovery ship for return to Europe.
More about IXV: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Launchers/IXV
Connect with IXV on Twitter: twitter.com/esa_ixv