Europe’s IXV spacecraft moving ahead

by Chris Bergin

The European Space Agency (ESA) have signed two key contracts with NGL Prime S.p.A. of Italy, one for the definition of launcher system concepts for the European Next Generation Launcher and the other for the development of a European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV).

The experimental lifting body vehicle will launch on the new Vega launcher from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The debut flight is set for 2010.

**15 specially acquired technical PDFs on the IXV vehicle are available to download on L2 **


Both contracts are part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP), which aim is to develop and demonstrate the technologies for a Next Generation Launcher (NGL) for Europe, which is expected to become operational after 2020. A secondary aim is to enhance the reliability and competitiveness of European launchers, including those operational today.
The contracts have a total value of more than 20 million euros and integrate key European competences and expertise in launcher and re-entry systems from 43 industrial and research organisations from 11 ESA member states.

The launcher systems studies will prepare key technical and programme data for the ESA Ministerial Conference in 2008, when strategic decisions about future launcher development will be made. The studies will examine the different options that Europe could adopt for the NGL.
In parallel, the IXV will demonstrate Europe’s advanced re-entry technologies and integrated system design capabilities. The IXV reference mission calls for a lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, aboard a Vega launch vehicle, followed by a fully automatically controlled re-entry, descent and landing in the Pacific Ocean.
The contracts were signed by ESA’s Director of Launcher Programmes, Antonio Fabrizi, and Axel Roenneke, CEO of NGL Prime S.p.A.
‘These contracts are a very important step in preparing for future decisions on European next generation launchers and in the development of critical technologies for re-entry,’ underlined Antonio Fabrizi at the signing.
NGL Prime S.p.A., a joint venture owned by EADS Astrium N.V. (70 percent) and Finmeccanica S.p.A. (30 percent), and located in Turin, Italy, was created in 2006 to act as the industrial prime contractor, managing the development and production of Europe’s next generation launch systems..

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