EUROPE’S first-ever ‘space plane’ will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace says after a three-month delay to finetune the flight plan. The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe’s Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle. Dubbed IXV, for Intermediate experimental Vehicle, the plane will be boosted from Europe’s space pad in Kourou, French Guiana, and separate from its launcher at an altitude of 320km.
The European Space Agency website says it will attain an altitude of around 450km before re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120km — representative of a return mission from low orbit. Via European space plane set for February launch