Thales Alenia Space will develop an experimental re-entry test-bed (EXPERT) for advancing re-entry technologies for space vehicles under a new contract from the European Space Agency.

The EXPERT project aims to demonstrate re-entry technologies and a way to gain experience on the development and flight of complex entry vehicles.

The test bed will gather flight data associated with entry critical aerothermodynamic phenomena for the demonstration and analysis.

The small, capsule-shaped EXPERT vehicle will be launched aboard the Russian launch vehicle Volna to follow a sub-orbital ballistic trajectory.

The flight conditions will be such that they may be reproduced on-ground in the wind tunnels verifying design methods.

Thales Alenia will be in charge of design consolidation, development and integration of the vehicle through a consortium of European industries, research centres and universities.

The ESA managed project will see Italy as a major contributor.

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The EXPERT is scheduled for flight by the end of 2010.