Fueled for launch! The IXV spaceplane receives its maneuvering propellant load ahead of next month’s Vega flight
Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) has been “topped off” at the Spaceport in French Guiana as preparations continue for its launch with Vega’s year-opening mission on February 11.
Loading of IXV’s hydrazine maneuvering propellant was performed in the S5B hall of the Spaceport’s large S5 payload preparation facility.
IXV was built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Thales Alenia Space, and is designed to flight test technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future automated reentry systems as they return from low Earth orbit.
The unmanned IXV is to be deployed into a suborbital trajectory by Vega at a 320-km. altitude. After IXV coasts up to an altitude of 420 km., it will begin the reentry phase – recording data from a large number of conventional and advanced sensors.
The entry speed of 7.5 km. per second creates the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit, with IXV subsequently descending via parachutes for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean approximately 100 minutes after liftoff.
Vega’s February 11 mission will mark the lightweight launcher’s second flight within the European Space Agency-managed VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment) program to showcase this vehicle’s flexibility. The industrial prime contractor for Vega is ELV S.p.A. – a company created by Avio and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in December 2000.