The Vega launch of ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, due on 18 November from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, has been postponed to allow for additional analyses of the Vega flight trajectory.
For this mission, instead of heading north into a polar orbit, as on previous flights, Vega will head eastwards to release the spaceplane into a suborbital path reaching all the way to the Pacific Ocean to test new technologies for future autonomous controlled reentry for return missions.
This trajectory is unprecedented for Vega and therefore more information is being generated on the performance of the launch vehicle, should an anomaly occur after liftoff.
As a result, IXV’s launch on Vega is postponed to a date to be defined in the coming weeks.
It will take about 100 minutes for IXV to complete its journey. Lofted by Vega to an altitude of 320 km, it will separate and carry on to attain an altitude of around 420 km. This will allow it to reach a speed of 7.5 km/s when reentering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 km – fully representative of any return mission from low orbit.
IXV will collect a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while being controlled by thrusters and aerodynamic flaps.
The craft will then deploy a parachute to slow its descent for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery by the Nos Aries ship to return to Europe for further analysis.