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IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) is a lifting-body re-entry experiment, which is intended to validate re-entry technologies for future European reusable launchers.

IXV is a lifting reentry body, with its shape resulting from the set of design requirements, including the need to maximise the internal volume for carrying experiments. It is 5 m long, 1.5 m high, and 2.2 m wide. The goal is to get the most out of the vehicle while guaranteeing the mass (limited by Vega's capacity) and centre-of-gravity location. The primary objectives of the IXV project can be grouped into three categories: reentry system demonstration, technology experimentation and technology validation.

The reference mission plans a Vega launch from Kourou (French Guiana) into a suborbital trajectory reaching to a height of 450 km, followed by landing in the Pacific Ocean. IXV will begin formal reentry 120 km above the Earth, at a speed of 7700 m/s and an angle of 1.19 below the horizontal. The reentry trajectory lasting around 20 minutes will be controlled by a combination of moving aerodynamic surfaces and thrusters from hypersonic speeds at 120 km altitude down to Mach 2.0, while travelling a surface distance of 7500 km. All the while, it will gather large quantities of data to verify the performance of several critical reentry technologies. IXV will then be slowed from Mach 2 by a set of parachutes deployed by drogue chutes, before airbags inflate to soften the landing.

The IXV validated in-flight a number of re-rentry technologies, with a flight in February 2015.

Nation: Europe
Type / Application: Reentry technology experiments
Operator: ESA
Contractors: Thales Alenia Space, Torino
Power: Batteries
Lifetime: few hours
Mass: 1844 kg total
Orbit: 76 km × 416 km, 6.47 suborbital
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
IXV N/A 11.02.2015 Ko ELV * Vega with AVUM VV04

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