back to article ESA to launch suborbital test spaceplane in 2013

The European* Space Agency (ESA) has announced that it will launch an unmanned suborbital mission in 2013 designed to test various technologies which could be used in future on vehicles able to re-enter Earth's atmosphere from orbit and make a landing carrying cargo or personnel. Concept pic of the Intermediate eXperimental …

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Joke

Lifting Bodies ?

When do they plan to start work on Zero-X ?

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Silver badge

Excellent reference

I remember watching it when it first came out in the cinema....

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It's back to the future

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_(spacecraft)

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Go

Wings for emergencies?

Not sure about the lifting body part... I realize the Shuttle never used the cross-range capabilities, but, in addition to the military applications, wouldn't it give more possibilities for landing sites in case either something bad happened while in an inconvenient part of the mission or if you had freak bad conditions at the normal sites?

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Silver badge

Not worth the extra cost

The shuttle has proved this beyond all reasonable doubt: those features might be nice to have but make the whole thing less flexible, more unreliable and hideously expensive. Better to give the wetware parachutes or M&M certificates at least, or have something that can survive long enough in the ocean for pickup.

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What does IXV signify

Roman does not parse.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV)

at least according to the Register article , but you know what they're like

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Just learn from the Shuttle...

It looks like some of the lessons from the shuttle have been learned:

- Don't strap it anywhere near the rocket output

- Don't let it weigh a hideous percent of the capacity

- Think about using it to replace traditional capsule-configurations

It isn't clear whether they have addressed the following shuttle issues:

- Heat shedding during re-entry and landing

- Landing gear

- Emergency evacuation during many parts of the launch cycle

I am looking forward to developments like this...

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Gold badge
Happy

@Bearchrider

- Don't strap it anywhere near the rocket output

Most conventional launchers manage this.

- Don't let it weigh a hideous percent of the capacity

ESA describe Vega's capacity as 1500Kg in a 700km polar orbit. While launching it *along* the equator (or about 5deg off) will increase that somewhat this is well loaded for this launch vehicle. OTOH Vega is a totally *solid* vehicle of 3 SRB's in series. Like the US Scout but made in Italy. Might be a Ferrari, then again might be an Alfa Romeo.

- Think about using it to replace traditional capsule-configurations

If this a *proper* X programme then absolutely not. The information collected (which *should* be extensive) is the real payoff. It anchors the CFD and FEA software systems which *might* be used to design a proper vehicle (or prove the benefits of this have too many drawbacks).

People underestimate 2 things. The amount of cross range a capsule design *can* have and the difficulty of building a non axi-symetrical pressure vessel (X33 mult lobed Hydrogen tank anyone?)

It isn't clear whether they have addressed the following shuttle issues:

- Heat shedding during re-entry and landing

Well the relevant PDF on the ESA web site (bul128h_tumino.pdf which dates from 2006) mentions RCC ( a German specialty which should have flown on the X38) but the *aim* of an X programme is to try out *different* options and hopefully find what's best for what conditions.

- Landing gear

I think "The craft will then descend by parachute and land in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and analysis" give a pretty big clue as to how they will handle this.

- Emergency evacuation during many parts of the launch cycle

It's an *unmanned* experimental vehicle, *not* a prototype like the X33. It fails it's toast.

If this sort of thing interests you you'd need to look at "FAcing the heat barrier by TA Heppenheimer," specifically the USAF's ASSET and PRIME programmes of the late 1960''s.

Not to mention the X20 Dyna-Soar.

The world has been here before (last time Orbital Sciences pitched it as crew vehicle with *half* the capacity of the Dragon capsule, which already exists).

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Gold badge
WTF?

Vega *finally* has a payload

It's been in first launch real-soon-now status since about 2009.

Europe's first mostly *Italian* designed and built launcher.

No that is not a joke.

Note that first launches (I've seen *no* indication of any other payload on Vega and the ESA page has not been updated since Feb this year) have a 50/50 shot at a successful launch.

To be fair Italy was the *only* European launch site for Scout solid rocket launchers (possibly NASA's *least* remembered but surprisingly successful rocket).

Icon expresses my surprise (to put it mildly)

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Childcatcher

IXV?

I do not know what the Romans would make of that, unless they were innumerate.

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Splashdown in the Pacific a good idea

For sure, eventually you want this thing to land back at base. And when you know all the tech works reliably, you'll probably do that.

In the meantime, let's park it in some water where it'll stand a good chance of survival (or at least that there'll be big enough pieces to analyse) if things don't work out so well. And let's park it in a *big* bit of water, just in case guidance ain't so hot. It's called failing safe.

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