Europe's Reusable Spaceplane Completes First Test Flight
A splashdown in the Pacific Ocean concluded the first successful test flight of Europe’s reusable spacecraft technology yesterday. The car-size Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) could pave the way for a full-size reusable spaceplane. This would launch on Europe’s Vega rocket and eventually return to Earth by landing like an aircraft on a runway.
The now-retired U.S. space shuttle fleet marked the world’s first concerted attempt to create reusable spacecraft technology, which should result in cost savings. But the shuttle infamously failed to keep overall mission costs down. (Since then, NASA has developed a smaller, robotic spaceplane for the U.S. Air Force called the X-37B that can automatically undergo reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere and land by itself).
Image credit: ESA–Tommaso Javidi