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ESA preps for its first space-plane blast off

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ESA preps for its first space-plane blast off

The European Space Agency is making the final preparations for its first ever space-plane launch on Wednesday.

The IXV, short for Intermediate Experimental Vehicle, would give Europe its very own shuttle-like, re-usable space vehicle.

Euronews is providing live web coverage of the mission here from 12.30.

The mission will provide data vital to eventually develop technology for a sample return mission to Mars or to shuttle astronauts back from the International Space Station.

On February 11, the prototype IXV will undertake a 100 minute unmanned test flight. Taking off from Kourou, French Guiana it will coast up to 420km before beginning the crucial re-entry phase.

“Now the important thing to keep in mind is that this really is an experimental test flight and anything could happen,” Euronews’ space expert Jeremy Wilks explains.

“The reason it has been organised is that although you can do simulations on computers and in wind tunnels the best way to learn about re-entry is to go to space and come back down again. The IXV is covered in sensors it has 300 of them gathering information about pressure and temperature all over its body as it comes down to that targeted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.”

The recovery vehicle stationed in Flamenco Island in Panama has been testing equipment to lift the IXV out of the water since mid-January.

The fruit of five years research at a cost of 150 million euros, the IXV space-plane is the proving ground for a re-usable vehicle that could eventually land on a traditional runway after a space mission.

For more details on IXVclick here.