Europe's SpaceTaxi prepares for lift-off.

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The European Space Agency is preparing to launch an experimental space plane known as IXV [Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle].If all goes to plan, the car-sized Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle will be launched from a spaceport in French Guiana on 11 February.

The reusable craft will be launched on top of the Vega rocket into low-Earth orbit, where it will test cutting-edge technologies that will open the way for reusable space transport systems or Space Taxis.

Once launched, IXV will separate from Vega at around 320 km above Earth, climb to an orbit of around 450 km and then descend for re-entry at hypersonic speeds.It will then slow down and deeply a multi-stage parachute that will allow it to splash down gently, at least that’s the hope - in the Pacific Ocean.

The robotic IXV could also dock with the International Space Station.

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