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This drop-test model of ESA’s IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle will be among the attractions on display at this year’s ESTEC Open Day on 5 October.
IXV’s sleek lifting body design gives a clue to its purpose: the flight version will ascend 450 km into space this November on a Vega rocket before beginning a long glide back through the atmosphere.
In the process, IXV will gather data on reentry conditions to help guide the design of future spaceplanes.
The IXV replica seen here was last year dropped by helicopter into the Mediterranean to demonstrate that the design would endure splashdown – note the flotation balloons.
The flight model, meanwhile, has been put through its paces at ESA’s test centre next door, with everything needed to recreate every aspect of the launch and space environment under one roof.