Positive outcome for the ''drop test'' of the IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator

The descent and splashdown test of IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle), the atmospheric reentry vehicle of the European Space Agency built by Thales Alenia Space, was carried out today with great success at the Salto di Quirra Inter-force Test Range in Sardinia, Italy.

The “drop test” was very important for the qualification of IXV and it verified the correct working of the chain of descent and recovery systems envisaged by the mission profile.

Transported by a helicopter provided by the Army Light Aviation Unit, the test model in 1:1 scale, designed by Thales Alenia Space and assembled in Capua at CIRA (Italian Aerospace Research Center), was launched from an altitude of 3,000 meters and, splashing down in the Mediterranean Sea, it reproduced the last descent phase of the vehicle.

The objective of the IXV project is to develop a European autonomous atmospheric reentry system, characterized by high aerodynamic properties, owing to its particular “lifting” shape and by a sophisticated guidance, navigation and control system based on propulsion and aerodynamic surfaces, as well as by a system for the thermal protection needed to guarantee reentry into the atmosphere.

Thales Alenia Space is in charge of the design, development and integration of the IXV vehicle and heads a consortium formed by the main European industries, to which research centers and universities also contribute. Delivery of the vehicle to the European Space Agency is planned for May 2014 and the launch, with the European launch vehicle Vega, for the summer of 2014.

The separation from Vega will take place at an altitude of 320 km. IXV will continue its ascent until reaching an altitude of 430 km, to then begin the reentry phase in which the experimental data will be acquired through both the conventional and advanced instrumentation on board the vehicle. The speed of entry into the atmosphere will be around 7.5 km/sec at an altitude of 120 km. The mission, which will last approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, will end with the splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The development of this technological demonstrator by Thales Alenia Space, as part of a project strongly supported by the Italian Space Agency, strengthens the presence of the Italian industry in the design and construction of transport and reentry systems, in support of the Space Exploration program and in view of the development of next generation transport systems.

Source: Thales Group (Paris: HO.PA)
Date: Jun 20, 2013