European Space Shuttle



With the American Space Shuttle program winding up this year the European Space Agency is unveiling its plans for a reusable spacecraft. The agency is going to start building the unmanned Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle and should be ready for flight in 2013.
IXV is quite different from the NASA shuttle, using a lifting body design instead of wings, with some flaps and thrusters to provide control. Another change is that it lifts off for space on the nose of a small Vega rocket, and splashes down in the Pacific Ocean instead of landing on a runway. In that way it more closely resembles America's initial forays into space, such as the splash-down orbiter designs of the Mercury Program.

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This isnt even close to the shuttle. Its unmanned for starters, doesnt land like a plane, is smaller and unmanned. Did I say its unmanned?

This is just a reusable version of the reliable cargo ferries the Russians have used for years to the ISS. Old news.
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In a lot of ways splash down and recovery makes a lot of sense. For a start you're not hauling all that landing gear and associated weight into space. Also the idea of the shuttle landing on a strip only really made sense if the landing strip was hard by the take off site. Apparently that was part of the original plan, but for safety reasons the team wanted to take off over the atlantic. And there was no suitable landing site in Florida. So yes you have to haul the vehicle back to it's launch site after splashdown, but since they are planning to launch from the pacific the landing site will be fairly close to the launch site.
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