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Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle

Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle
Artist's view of IXV reentry phase.
Operator ESA
Major contractors Thales Alenia Space Italy
Mission type Reentry technology demonstration
Launch date 11 February 2015[1][2][3]
Launch vehicle VEGA
Launch site Kourou ELV
Landing site Pacific Ocean
Homepage ESA Reentry technologies
Mass 1,800 kilograms (4,000 lb)
Orbital elements
Regime Suborbital
Altitude 450 kilometres (280 mi)
References: [4][5][6]

The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) is an European Space Agency (ESA) experimental re-entry vehicle intended to validate European reusable launchers that could be evaluated in the frame of the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP).[7] The IXV development would be carried out under the leadership of the NGL Prime SpA company.[6] It would inherit the principles of previous studies such as CNES's Pre-X and ESA's AREV (Atmospheric Reentry Experimental Vehicle).


  • Design 1
  • Specifications 2
  • Pre-launch testing 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


IXV uses a lifting body arrangement with no wings of any sort, using two movable flaps for re-entry flight control. Re-entry is accomplished in a nose-high attitude like the Space Shuttle, with maneuvering accomplished by rolling out-of-plane and then lifting in that direction, like an aircraft. Landing is accomplished by parachutes ejected through the top of the vehicle. The airframe is based on a traditional hot-structure/cold-structure arrangement, and is supported on-orbit by a separate maneuvering and support module similar to the Resource Module intended for the Hermes. The avionics are controlled by a LEON2-FT microprocessor, and interconnected by a MIL-STD-1553B serial bus.[8]

On December 18, 2009, ESA announced a contract with Thales Alenia Space valued at 39.4 million euros to cover 18 months of preliminary IXV work.[5][9] Initially scheduled to make its first orbiting flight in 2013,[10] the next plans were to launch the IXV on 18 November 2014[11] by a Vega rocket,[12] the ESA’s new small launcher, descending to the Pacific Ocean for later recovery and analysis of the recorded mission data.[13] The total estimated cost for the project is 150 million euros.[4]


Data from ESA,[4],[10] Gunter's Space Page[6]

General characteristics
  • Crew: None
  • Capacity: None
  • Length: 5 m (16.4 ft)
  • Wingspan: 2.2 m (7.2 ft)
  • Height: 1.5 m (4.9 ft)
  • Empty weight: 480 kg (1,058 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 1,900 kg with propulsion module (4,188 lb)
  • Power: Batteries


Pre-launch testing

The IXV's subsonic parachute system was tested at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in late 2012.[14] Water impact tests were conducted at Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche's INSEAN research tank near Rome.[15]

On June 21, 2013 an IXV test vehicle was dropped from an altitude of 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) in the Salto di Quirra range off Sardinia. The test was to validate the water landing system including the subsonic parachute, floatation balloons, and beacon deployment. A small anomaly was encountered when inflating the balloons, but the other systems performed as expected. After the test the vehicle was taken for further analysis.[16]

On June 23, 2014 the recovery ship Nos Aries conducted a training exercise with an IXV test article off the coast of Tuscany.[17]

In June 2014 the IXV test vehicle arrived at the ESTEC Technical Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, to undergo a rigorous test campaign to confirm its flight readiness in anticipation of a flight on a Vega rocket in November.[18]

See also


  1. ^ European space plane set for February launch
  2. ^ "European space plane set for February launch: firm". 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2014-11-24. 
  3. ^ "Worldwide launch schedule". 18 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "IXV e-book" ( 
  5. ^ a b Peter B. de Selding (2009-12-18). "ESA Spending Freeze Ends with Deals for Sentinel Satellites, Ariane 5 Upgrade". Space News. Retrieved 2011-11-04. The contract is valued at 39.4 million euros to cover preliminary IXV work for 18 months, Fabrizi said. 
  6. ^ a b c Gunter Dirk Krebs. "IXV". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  7. ^ "New milestone in IXV development".  
  8. ^ Enrique Rodríguez, Pablo Giménez, Ignacio de Miguel, Vicente Fernández (2012-09-25). "SCOE for IXV GNC". Simulation & EGSE Facilities for Space Programmes (SESP 2012). European Space Agency. 
  9. ^ "ESA and Thales Alenia Space establish agreement for development of Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)".  
  10. ^ a b Rob Coppinger (2011-06-13). "Europe Aims to Launch Robotic Mini-Shuttle By 2020". Retrieved 2011-06-16. In 2013, a Vega rocket will carry ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle into space. 
  11. ^ "Europe's IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator ready for final tests". 2014-03-24. Retrieved 2014-03-26. The launch, using Europe's new Vega light launcher, is scheduled for October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Vega to fly ESA experimental reentry vehicle".  
  13. ^ "ESA’s IXV reentry vehicle prepares for soft landing".  
  14. ^ "ESA's IXV Reentry Vehicle Prepares for Soft Landing". ESA. 9 Nov 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  15. ^ A. Iafrati. "Water impact and hydrodynamic loads".  
  16. ^ "Safe splashdown for IXV". ESA. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Bringing back our Spaceplane".  
  18. ^ "Unboxing IXV".  

Further reading

  • Giorgio Tumino, Yves Gerard (November 2006). "IXV: the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle". ESA bulletin (128): 62–67. 
  • Giorgio Tumino, Enrico Angelino, Frederic Leleu, Roberto Angelini, Patrice Plotard, Josef Sommer (2008-10-15). "The IXV project: the ESA re-entry system and technolologies demonstrator paving the way to European autonomous space transportation and exploration endeavours". 3rd FLPP Industrial Workshop. European Space Agency. IAC-08-D2.6.01. 
  • Paolo Baiocca (June 2007). "Pre-X experimental re-entry lifting body: Design of flight test experiments for critical aerothermal phenomena". RTO-EN-AVT-130 — Flight Experiments for Hypersonic Vehicle Development ( 
  • Paolo Baiocca, Sylvain Guedron, Patrice Plotard, Jacques Moulin (October 2006). "Proceedings of the 57th IAF Congress". International Astronautical Congress (IAF). pp. 459–474.  
  • T. Gawehn, D. Neeb, F. Tarfeld, A. Gülhan, M. Dormieux, P. Binetti, T. Walloschek (2011). "Experimental investigation of the influence of the flow structure on the aerodynamic coefficients of the IXV vehicle". Shock Waves 21 (3): 253–266.  

External links

  • Official IXV website
  • IXV twitter profile
  • ESA animation of an entire IXV flight
  • IXV: learning to come back from Space, IXV Video News Release VNR
  • ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, ESA Multimedia Gallery (2008 animation)
  • ESA Euronews: "Splashdown — the re-entry test" (2013-08-22). Video on YouTube
  • CNES reusable atmospheric re-entry vehicle: PRE-X
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