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The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle  (IXV) is an atmospheric re-entry demonstrator. It is a mini-shuttle that flew in space and re-entered the atmosphere to splash down in the Pacific Ocean. The goal was to measure all parameters of the re-entry, evaluate the thermal protection and the accuracy of the landing. This test plane is part of the evolution to the Space Rider, ESA’s first reusable space transportation system. (Photo: Robert Willemsen)

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With Giorgio Tumino, project manager of the IXV. Wishing him well with the test campaign in the test centre at ESTEC. (Photo: Robert Willemsen)

Clearly visible are the two carbon ceramic flaps that allow the space plane to steer during the 20 min of atmospheric re-entry. Just like the Space Shuttle, the IXV had an aerobraking phase to slow down sufficiently before deploying a series of parachutes for the sea landing. The highest temperatures recorded on the edge of the flaps was 1.600 C. (Photo: Robert Willemsen)

Before launching the flight unit of the IXV, tests were done with a 5 m. long, 2 ton drop test model. This plane was dropped from planes and helicopters to test the parachutes and sea landing, incl. the deployment of the helium filled floats that aid buoyancy while it waits in the water for the special recovery ship. (Photo: Robert Willemsen)

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