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Mission achieved for the IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator

News International-French

13 Feb 2015

The experimental vehicle to develop an autonomous European reentry capability for future reusable space transportation has completed its mission.

ESA's IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) spaceplane lifted off on 11 February from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana atop a Vega rocket. It separated from Vega at an altitude of 340 km and continued up to 412 km. Reentering from this suborbital path, it recorded a vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors.

As it descended, the five-metre-long, two-tonne craft manoeuvred to decelerate from hypersonic to supersonic speed. The entry speed of 7.5 km/s at an altitude of 120 km created the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit.

IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Ceramic Matrix Composites thermal protection


CMC nose assembly of IXV
CMC nose assembly of IXV
The mission featured advanced composite materials from Herakles (Safran). The company was called on its expertise in ceramic matrix composites (CMC) to design, manufacture and integrate the CMC thermal protection systems for the lower surface of the wing, leading edges and nose of the spacecraft.

These parts are subjected to intense thermal flux during the reentry, reaching temperatures exceeding 1600°C. It was also "mission accomplished" for Herakles, which validated the ability of its CMC technology to stand up to the extreme temperatures experienced by thermal protection systems during atmospheric reentry. With this successful IXV mission, parent group Safran reaffirmed its know-how in advanced ceramic matrix composites.

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