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.