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MOSCOW, February 11. /TASS/. Experimental space shuttle IXV designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) has separated from the Vega launch vehicle and has began an autonomous flight along a suborbital trajectory.
Live coverage of the maiden flight of the space vehicle that lifted off from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana at 14:40 CET (13:40 GMT) was broadcast in ESA’s Moscow office.
The separation from the third stage of the launch vehicle took place as the elevation of 342 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. After that, the shuttle was expected to go up to 412 kilometers.
This will be followed by a braking maneuver and re-entry of the terrestrial atmosphere.
The flight plan included the splashing down in the central sector of the Pacific Ocean, ESA said. The whole voyage was to last 100 minutes.
The IXV has a lifting body that ensures lifting power in the process of landing. It also has flaps and small rocket engines that help control the descent trajectory.
ESA spent €150 million on the project that embraced 40 European manufacturing enterprises.
Data obtained during the maiden flight will be then used in the design of the PRIDE space shuttle, which is due to be launched into orbit in 2018 or later.