IXV Intermediate Experimental Vehicle

IXV Intermediate Experimental Vehicle

IXV is a European atmospheric reentry demonstrator characterised by high aerodynamic properties achieved by taking advantage of the shape of the fuselage.

IXV is a European atmospheric reentry demonstrator characterised by high aerodynamic properties achieved by taking advantage of the shape of the fuselage, designed to maximise lift and maneuverability. The vehicle was  also equipped with a high performance guidance, navigation and control system that uses aerodynamic surfaces during the atmospheric reentry phase and with a thermal protection system to withstand the heat generated during reentry into the atmosphere. The main objectives of the IXV project were :

  • Demonstration of the ability to design, build and operate a complete reentry system;
  • Testing of the new technologies used;
  • Validation and testing of the systems used.


IXV has been launched on 11th of  February 2015  by  the European VEGA launcher.   Leonardo participated  in the programme through its joint ventures Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio and through its Aircraft Division and Electronics Division.

Thales Alenia Space

Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the European Space Agency (ESA) is responsible for the overall activities, and also heads a consortium formed by the main European industries to which research centers and universities also contribute.

The final integration and test phase of the vehicle took place at the Thales Alenia Space site in Turin, whereas the environmental tests were carried out at ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre), in the Netherlands.

Through technology investigated by IXV Launch, Thales Alenia Space with ELV (European Launch Vehicle - 70% Avio SpA, 30% ASI)  as co-contractor, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the engineering and preliminary development of the automated reusable Space Rider transportation system, designed for deployment by the new Vega C light launcher into low Earth orbit (LEO). The goal of Space Rider is to provide Europe with an affordable, independent, reusable end-to-end integrated space transportation system for unmanned missions and for routine access and return from low orbit. It will be used to transport a variety of payloads into different LEO altitudes and inclinations.

Leading a consortium of European manufacturers, research centers and universities, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the development of the reentry module (RM), derived from the IXV. ELV is in charge of the development of the service module, derived from the Vega C upper stage AVUM (Attitude and Vernier Upper Module). The partners in this new program are capitalizing on the lessons learned from the IXV, which enjoyed strong support from the Italian space agency ASI.


In addition to the actual vehicle, the IXV programme also included the development of the ground segment, including stations that followed the vehicle trajectory and the Mission Control Center, which was hosted at ALTEC in Turin.

These activities were managed by Telespazio which designed and developed, the Ground Segment Network (GSN) of IXV with ALTEC and OHB, besides realizing the network connecting the ALTEC Mission Control Center in Turin with stations at Fucino, Kourou, Libreville, Malindi, the IXV demonstrator and the support ship.

The Aircraft Division

As a system integrator and first level provider for Thales Alenia Space, the Aircraft Division, developed the test environment used for integration and qualification of the avionics subsystem and software, and the Electrical Ground Support Equipment supplied for the electric-functional integration activities on the aircraft.

It also developed the IXV power supply activation and ground control devices and the telemetry and remote controls amplification system of both used on the launching pad.

Electronics Division

Besides the Aircraft Division which contributed to the programme with the development of an avionic subsystem and software for the experimental flight, Leonardo was involved in the IXV project also through its Electronics Division, which provided the IXV with the Power Protection and Distribution Unit able to supply electric power towards the power lines of the vehicle.

This equipment also offers functions to limit the power supply, the command of the reaction control system valves, the pyrotechnic actuators switch control and the connection and isolation of the power batteries’ lines.

(photo credits ESA)

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