IXV mission timeline

As it reenters Earth's atmosphere, IXV will test new critical technologies to advance Europe's ambition to return autonomously from space.
Artist's view of the IXV mission
9 February 2015

An annotated timeline of the most critical events during the IXV mission. ESA’s wingless spaceplane is set for liftoff on a Vega rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, 11 February 2015.

ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) will be launched on Vega flight VV04 at 13:00 GMT (14:00 CET) for a suborbital flight to test technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future automated reentry systems.

After separation from Vega at about 340 km altitude 18 minutes into flight, it will coast up to a maximum height of 412 km. Next, it will begin reentry, recording data from a large number of conventional and advanced sensors.

The entry speed of 27 000 km/h (7.5 km/s) creates the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low orbit. It will navigate through the atmosphere within its reentry corridor before descending, slowed by a multistage parachute, for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean some 100 minutes after liftoff.

During its brief but crucial mission, experts on three continents and the high seas will work in close cooperation for ESA’s IXV spaceplane mission, monitoring its free flight in space, spectacular reentry and safe splashdown in the Pacific.
IXV flight profile

The spacecraft will fly fully autonomously, and will be closely monitored from its Mission Control Centre located at the Advanced Logistics Technology Engineering Centre in Turin, Italy. Signals from the spacecraft will be tracked by two ground stations in Africa and by an antenna on the recovery ship, Nos Aries.

On 11 February, follow the mission live starting 12:30 GMT (13:30 CET) via Arianespace TV and ESA TV.

IXV timeline

Times shown are pre- or post-launch elapsed times with respect to liftoff. All times are subject to change. 

AOS: Acquisition of signal
BOT: Beginning of track
MCC: IXV Mission Control Centre at ALTEC, Turin
CSG: (Centre spatial guyanais), Vega mission control in Jupiter control room, Kourou
MAL: Ground tracking station, Malindi, Kenya
LIB: Ground tracking station, Libreville, Gabon
LOS: Loss of signal
TM: Telemetry
AVUM: Attitude Vernier Upper Module – Vega upper stage

Time Activity
–8h 15m Start of IXV ground segment configuration, subsystem internal tests, activation of ground station links
–7h 45m Start of Vega countdown
–7h 30m Start of IXV data flow tests between MCC and ground stations
–6h 30m Start of IXV ground segment-wide verification
–6h 15m Voice check CSG-MCC-ship
–4h 45m End of Mission Simulation No 1
­–3h 30m Start of IXV countdown
–2h 40m Mobile gantry withdrawal (45 min)
–2h 00m Receive result of high-altitude wind measurement from ship meteo station (launched at L–4h)
–1h 00m Ground segment configured for launch
–0h 34m Launcher system ready
–0h 10m Final launcher weather report
–0h 04m Start Vega automated launch sequence
–0h 01m IXV: switch to launch mode
H0 (14:00 CET) Liftoff
+1m 52s Separation of first stage (P80)
+3m 35s Separation of second stage (Zefiro-23)
+4m 02s Jettisoning of fairing (Vega now in space)
+6m 37s Separation of third stage (Zefiro-9)
+8m 00s AVUM first burn
+13m 49s AVUM shutdown
+16m 13s Libreville AOS Vega (earliest possible)
+17m 59s Separation; IXV in free flight (earliest possible; window until 21m 34s)
+18m 20s Libreville AOS IXV
During Libreville until after Malindi LOS MCC receives IXV TM; IXV status continuously monitored; updates to predicted splashdown coordinates
+20m 34s IXV: Reaction control system (thrusters) primed
Times below are estimates only and will depend on actual IXV progress
+23m 30s Malindi AOS
+25m 35s Libreville LOS
+34m 12s Malindi LOS
+1h 20m BOT ship tracking antenna; ship now listening for IXV signals at end of reentry blackout
+1h 22m End of reentry blackout; expected AOS ship tracking antenna; start receiving spacecraft TM & experimental data
+1h 25m Parachute panel ejection
+1h 29m Main parachute ejection
+1h 31m IXV passivation
+1h 42m Splashdown (forecast)
+1h 42m After splashdown: MCC reports summary of IXV status, actual splashdown coordinates
  Ship conducts recovery operations
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