This timelapse video shows ESA's IXV spaceplane, from final preparations to liftoff on a Vega rocket from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 11 February 2015.
Once sealed, IXV was encapsulated in Vega's protective fairing and transferred to the mobile gantry for integration with Vega. The mobile gantry was rolled back for liftoff at 13:40 GMT (14:40 CET, 10:40 local time).
IXV 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 orbit.
IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
IXV’s fully controlled reentry from orbital velocity and altitude represents an important first for Europe and consolidates the knowledge necessary for the development of any future European reentry system.