AEROSPATIALE HAS completed the first descent and recovery test of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator (ARD) spacecraft in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Sicily.

The ARD was dropped from a stratospheric balloon at 82,000ft (25,000m) and, after a free-fall of 33,000ft, its parachutes were deployed. The capsule splashed down after a flight of 18min and was located 10min later, completing a full test of the Alenia Spazio descent-and-recovery system.

The technology vehicle, which is part of an ESA manned space-transport programme which may culminate in the development of an independent crew transporter, will be launched on a sub-orbital spaceflight, probably during the next Ariane 5 mission.

Source: Flight International