Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle – IXV

Description and Objectives

IXV is a lifting reentry body, with its shape resulting from the set of design requirements, including the need to maximize the internal volume for carrying experiments.The goal is to get the most out of the vehicle while guaranteeing the mass and centre-of-gravity location.
The primary objectives of the IXV project can be grouped into three categories:

  • reentry system demonstration
  • technology experimentation
  • technology validation

Reference Mission
The IXV baseline mission is driven by using Vega as the launcher, with critical safety issues that call for Vega’s stages to fall over uninhabited areas and the experimental vehicle to fly over sparsely populated regions.
The reference mission plans a launch from Kourou (French Guiana) into an semi-equatorial orbit, followed by a landing in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery boat and post-flight analysis. The main flight phases are:

  • Ascent
  • Separation
  • Ballistic Phase
  • Re-entry Phase
  • Descent Phase
  • Splash down

ALTEC role in the program
ALTEC role in the program is the development and management of the IXV Ground Segment that will provide all required capabilities for IXV mission supporting. The IXV Ground Segment is composed by the following major elements:

  • IXV Mission Control Center (hosted at ALTEC premises)
  • IXV Ground Stations (including one embarked on recovery ship)
  • IXV Communication Network;


These elements provide the following functionalities:

IXV Mission Control Center (MCC): it provides infrastructures, systems, tools and applications to be used during the IXV mission for Telemetry (TM) monitoring, storage, processing, displaying as well as detailed trajectory and splash-down location prediction, offline management of Ground Stations operations, meteorological forecast data of the recovery area. During pre-launch phases the IXV Operations Director resident at ALTEC MCC will provide support to the IXV Mission Director resident at VEGA Launch Control Center (LCC) by reporting him on the status of IXV subsystems, on the status of the overall Ground Segment and also on the meteorological conditions at the splash down site. These data will be used by the IXV Mission Director to provide launch go/no go inputs to the VEGA Mission Manager and his staff. Then, during the mission execution and any spacecraft (S/C) emergency phases, the responsibility for conducting IXV flight, ground segment and recovery operations lies with the Operations Director. For this reason, after IXV separation, MCC will monitor the flight phases through the received Vital Layer TM data, coordinating all Ground Stations; it will finally remotely coordinate and support all recovery operations performed at splash‑down site.

IXV Ground Stations and recovery ship: the Ground Stations allow IXV space‑to‑ground communications and are in charge of tracking the S/C, receive TM and send it to MCC. Two different kinds of stations are identified: Fixed Ground Stations and Transportable Ground Stations. The first fixed Ground Station, located in Libreville (CNES), is used to track the last stage of the IXV launcher (AVUM); to receive IXV S/C data a transportable telemetry kit is interfaced to Libreville antenna. This solution is possible thanks to the fact that IXV and Attitude Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) are close enough to reside both in antenna’s main lobe. The second fixed Ground Station located in Malindi (ASI) is fully devoted to IXV S/C tracking (Malindi Ground Station and ALTEC are parts of AsiNet and they are already interfaced within this network). The transportable Ground Station,  fully allocated to IXV tracking and IXV TM reception,  will be placed on the recovery ship.
The recovery ship will be equipped with all needed infrastructures and GSEs to perform controlled and safe recovery operations of the S/C, and will provide the necessary infrastructures to allow hosting of mobile Ground Station and relevant equipment for tracking and receiving data from S/C during last mission phase (e.g. precise splashdown localization info) and to permit proper communication and coordination to/from MCC. Additionally, the recovery ship will host all the video system equipment that will allow the video coverage of the last mission phase and spash-down.IXV Communication Network: provides necessary infrastructure to allow reliable communication of IXV Mission Control Centre with IXV Ground Stations, AIT site (hosted in Turin – IT) and launch site (located at VEGA launch premises at Kourou, Guyana Space Center CSG). These links will be setup using both ground connections, where available, and satellite based links.