Europe launches space plane

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Europe launches space plane

Europe said it had launched a prototype space plane on February 11 in a strategy to join an elite club able to both launch a spacecraft and return it safely to Earth. A Vega rocket lifted off from the European Space Agency’s base in Kourou, French Guiana, bearing the novel Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), ESA said in a webcast. The 5-meter  (16-feet), two-ton wingless demonstrator is the first step in filling a gap in ESA’s range of skills. Europe can launch satellites, robot explorers and supply ships but unlike rival spacefarers – the United States, Russia and China – does not have the means to bring them back to Earth intact.

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