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IXV anniversary heralds advent of Space Rider

IXV anniversary heralds advent of Space Rider

The IXV (Intermediate Experimental Vehicle) was launched five year ago to demonstrate critical atmospheric reentry technologies under real conditions, including aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic performance, plus the thermal protection, navigation and control systems. Its flawless suborbital flight lasted 100 minutes and covered some 25,000 kilometers, including 8,000 in a searing atmospheric descent and safe splashdown at the targeted spot in the Pacific Ocean. Thales Alenia Space was chosen as prime contractor for this demonstrator, based on its acknowledged expertise in orbital infrastructures.

Space Rider, the new-generation reusable space transport system

Building on the success of the IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator, Thales Alenia Space is now developing Space Rider, Europe’s new-generation reusable space transport system. Space Rider is an autonomous orbital platform, capable of remaining two months or more in orbit and then returning to Earth in a safe atmospheric reentry landing automatically on a runway. It can be recovered, reconfigured and reused for up to six missions. Operating in low Earth orbit (LEO), it can carry out experiments in microgravity, test science and exploration technologies in orbit, and automatically return payloads to Earth for analysis and further testing. The first launch of Space Rider is slated for early 2022.

"This program is crucial for Europe,”

said Walter Cugno, Vice President, Exploration and Science domain at Thales Alenia Space in Italy, and Managing Director of the Turin plant.


“Space Rider is a low-orbit reentry vehicle that will support microgravity experiments and other activities, along with Earth observation, monitoring of space debris and the ability to inspect satellites that may need servicing. It can also return to Earth on short notice, then be refurbished quickly to carry out a new mission. It’s an extremely agile spacecraft, designed to be orbited by the Vega light launcher. It can carry up to 800 kilos of payload and can remain in orbit for two to up to six months, while also changing orbital inclination in line with user needs. After reentry, Space Rider will land directly on a runway, for easy recovery of its payload.
"Its reentry capability is one of its major features. This was tested on the predecessor IXV spacecraft, although the IXV landed at sea.”