Successful test flight for Euro shuttle

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The Independent Online

The prototype of a European space shuttle glided to earth successfully yesterday, thus passing the first test of a process aimed at eventually seeing the continent compete with the United States in space travel.

The prototype of a European space shuttle glided to earth successfully yesterday, thus passing the first test of a process aimed at eventually seeing the continent compete with the United States in space travel.

The EADS Phoenix, a German-designed unmanned prototype of the future European Shuttle, was carried to an altitude of 8,000ft by a heavy-duty helicopter before it was dropped and glided to earth for a successful landing.

Guided by GPS satellites, the shuttle "landed perfectly" on a test runway after its 90-second flight, said Johanna Bergstroem-Roos, of the North European Aerospace Test Range in Kiruna, north of Stockholm. "Everyone here is ecstatic," Ms Bergstroem-Roos said. "This gives us wind in our sails."

The next step will be to drop the prototype from higher altitudes. The finished shuttle must be capable of gliding to earth from an altitude of 80 miles. The Phoenix shuttle is expected to be finished sometime between 2015 and 2020, when it will likely replace the Ariane 5 rocket, the European launch vehicle that has been delivering satellites into orbit since 1999.

EADS, or the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, is the largest aerospace business in Europe and the second largest in the world.

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