The European Space Agency and Thales Alenia have signed a contract to build the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), an unmanned testbed for atmospheric re-entry technologies.

IXV is scheduled for launch in 2013, when it will be used to simulate re-entry from low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft has recently completed the critical design review with what Antonio Fabrizi, ESA's director of launchers, characterised as "few" recommendations for major changes.

Construction of IXV is dependent on the approval of ESA's 18 member states.

Source: Flight Daily News