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ESA's Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle will be injected into a suborbital path by a Vega rocket launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana in autumn 2014. IXV will separate from Vega at an altitude of 320 km. It will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing 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. It 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 and analysis.
The complete mission will last for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.