ESA’s new space taxi completes its first successful flight!
18 February 2015
The European Space Agency's IXV space taxi has successfully completed its first mission!
Last week the new spaceplane soared 412 kilometres high before its blazing glide back down through the Earth’s atmosphere, all the while collecting precious data for future space exploration.
Its journey ended with a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
IXV was launched on 11 February atop a Vega rocket. The launch from French Guiana in South America was attended by all sorts of science and technology celebrities, including ESA’s favourite little alien, Paxi!
After separating from the rocket 340 kilometres above the ground, IXV continued rising for another 72 kilometres before gliding back down through Earth's atmosphere. After reentry and in the last 10 minutes of its journey, parachutes unfolded to slow IXV to a safe speed to splash down in the ocean.
This 100-minute mission will shape the future of space travel. IXV used 300 onboard sensors to record data during its descent. The information will help scientists to master the art of reentry into Earth’s atmosphere with a spacecraft. This ability will allow each space taxi to travel to and from space again and again, saving huge amounts of both money and time.
A reusable space taxi could one day carry people to and from space, and allow us to bring materials back from exploratory missions, such as samples from other planets and moons!
Balloons kept IXV afloat while a recovery boat hurried to pick it up. IXV looks great and is now on its way to Europe for a full inspection.
Cool Fact: When IXV reentered Earth’s atmosphere it was travelling fast enough to circle the entire planet in just one-and-a-half hours!