ESA and Thales Alenia Space establish agreement for development of Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)

16 June 2009

Today at the Paris Air Show being held at Le Bourget, ESA and Thales Alenia Space have established the agreement for the authorisation to proceed with the development of the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) atmospheric reentry demonstrator.

The IXV project is part of the ESA Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). The objective of IXV is to develop a European autonomous atmospheric reentry demonstrator system, characterised by high aerodynamic performance due to its lifting body shape, equipped with a high-performance control system based on propulsion and aerodynamic surfaces and having advanced thermal protection for atmospheric reentry.
 
The vehicle will weigh about 1800 kg and will be launched by Vega from the European Spaceport in Kourou. The launcher will place the IXV vehicle at an altitude around 450 km from which IXV will start its flight back to Earth, smoothly and safely splashing-down in the Pacific Ocean. With an entry velocity of approximately 7.5 km/s, the IXV system will perform a mission fully representative of a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) reentry mission.
 
Thales Alenia Space will be responsible for the design consolidation, development and integration of the vehicle and will lead a team formed by major European industries and integrated with research centres and universities from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The delivery of the vehicle to ESA is planned to take place by the end of 2012.
 
“The IXV mission is a unique opportunity to tackle a large part of the basic European needs for reentry from LEO, consolidating the experience and know-how necessary for the development of any future European reentry system,” declared Giorgio Tumino, ESA IXV Project Manager, “in particular, the aerodynamic performance and aerothermodynamic characteristic of the reentry phase, the thermal protection materials and the guidance, navigation and control system.”
 
“This agreement marks the IXV project entering its full development phase, contributing concretely to the consolidation of the European know-how for return missions from LEO, after several years of continuous studies across Europe”, underlined Antonio Fabrizi, ESA Director of Launchers.

Other launchers news from Le Bourget

Yesterday (15 June 2009), ESA and Arianespace signed the Frame Contract for the provision of launch services. The main purpose of this contract is to maximise the use of Ariane, Vega, and Soyuz at the Guiana Space Centre, while ensuring competitive launch service prices for ESA missions.
 
Tomorrow (17 June 2009), ESA will sign a €20 million rider with the Joint Propulsion Team consortium, composed of Avio SpA (I), Astrium GmbH (D) and SNECMA (groupe SAFRAN) (F), for the development of the liquid-fuelled engine demonstrator for the European Next Generation Launcher first stage – the High Thrust Engine Demonstrator.

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