The European Space Agency is scheduled to launch an experimental space plane from its space center near Kourou in French Guiana on Wednesday in a bid to open the way for Europe’s first reusable space transportation system.
The unmanned Intermediate Experimental Vehicle, or IXV, will blast off at 8 a.m. ET and splash into the Pacific Ocean approximately 100 minutes later.
The car-sized IXV will separate from the rocket at altitude of 320 kilometers and coast up to 450 kilometers before returning to atmosphere.
After deceleration, it will deploy a parachute to slow down further. Flaps and thrusters will be used to steer IXV to splash down in the water. Then, flotation balloons will keep the spacecraft from sinking so it can be recovered by a ship.