Last summer, the tug ‘Nos Aries’ and crew aiming to recover Europe’s unmanned IXV spacecraft had a practice run off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. They retrieved a prototype of the suborbital IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, the same model flown in 2013 in a splashdown test off the east coast of Sardinia.
A Heila HLRM140-3S telescopic knuckle crane dropped the two-tonne vehicle into the water for the crew to practise the tricky manoeuvres they will use when the real thing splashes down in the Pacific.
The rehearsal even allowed for an upside-down splashdown. According to Heila, This type of offshore crane is one of the top models of the range, for its versatility, dimensions and capacities. The HLRM140-3S on board Nos Aires tug lifts 5400 kg @ 12,38 mtr with sea state 5 of B.V. or sea state 4.
A crew from the Italian company Neri Group were operating the recovery ship while the prototype was carefully hoisted aboard and into its container.
The craft, its work done, will now be taken to the European Space Agengy’s Technical Centre in the Netherlands for display.
Descending on its suborbital path, as if returning from low orbit, IXV will use its body to generate lift for flying, controlled only by aerodynamic flaps and thrusters.
The experimental flight in November 2014 was due to end with IXV transmitting its precious information before splashing down into the most remote region of the Pacific, with Nos Aries waiting to retrieve it.
By Jake Frith
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