Like Superman: ESA's IXV Spaceplane Makes Successful Research Flight

AND IT’S OFF: A Vega launch vehicle lofts ESA’s IXV spaceplane to its suborbital mission. Photo Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

It wasn’t Superman, but a spaceplane; however, it sure appeared to travel “faster than a speeding bullet,” as it cleared the pad in four seconds.

At 13:40 GMT (8:40 EST) today, the flight of […]

'Ready to Fly': Europe's IXV Spaceplane Geared Up for Feb. 11 Launch

Fueling IXV: “The IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle is being prepared for launch at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. IXV will be launched 320 km into space on top of a Vega rocket, climbing up to 420 km before beginning a long glide back through the atmosphere. In the process, IXV will gather […]

ESA's IXV Spaceplane Readied for November Flight, While US Spaceplanes Pass Milestones

From the European Space Agency (ESA): “[The IXV] will be launched by ESA in 2014 on Vega, Europe’s new small launcher, into a suborbital path, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. After being launched into space, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, testing brand-new European atmospheric reentry technologies […]

The Future That Wasn't: The Hermes Spaceplane

Hermes, Europe’s spaceplane, is depicted coasting in orbit in an artist’s rendering. Image Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

The prose in the 1986 Aerospatiale advertisement was breathless: “10 years old, and still 20 years ahead,” it started. The ad continued, “At Aerospatiale, addressing the exciting aerospace challenges of tomorrow means capitalizing on the […]

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Roars Through Second Supersonic Flight

On Sept. 5, 2013, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo was released from its carrier aircraft and proceeded to conduct its second supersonic flight. Photo Credit: Mars Scientific / Clay Center Observatory

At 8 a.m. PDT, over the deserts of Mojave, Calif., Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2), ferried aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft, was released, […]

A Brief History of Spaceplanes

Spaceplanes are not a new concept, having been thought up years before the space age even began. Image Credit: NASA

A spaceplane is quite simply a vehicle that can fly as both an airplane in the atmosphere—generating lift from its wings—and as a spacecraft in a vacuum using rocket propulsion. No spaceplane has […]