European Space Agency set to build experimental transport spacecraft

ESA wants to offer transportation, robotic services

Looking to take a giant step toward taking part in low Earth orbit transportation, exploration and servicing orbiting space structures, the European Space Agency today it would team with Thales Alenia Space Italia to begin building an experimental spacecraft for launch in 2013.

Planning for the ESA's IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) has been in the works for about two years and follows on the agency's Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator flight which took place in 1998.

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The IXV will be reusable, more maneuverable and able to make precise landings, the ESA stated.  Its success will provide Europe with valuable know-how on reentry systems and flight-proven technologies that are necessary to support the Agency's future ambitions, including return missions from low Earth orbit, the agency stated.

According to the ESA, the IXV will be launched into a suborbital trajectory on ESA's small Vega rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, to test and qualify new European critical reentry technologies such as advanced ceramic and ablative thermal protection.  

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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