The experimental spaceplane IXV is back on Earth after a world-first test flight and a “flawless re-entry”.
It separated from the rocket when it reached 348km and soared to 413km before returning to Earth.
As it descended, the five-metre-long, two-tonne craft decelerated from hypersonic to supersonic speed.
IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just west of the Galapagos islands.
Now it’s down to ESA scientists and technicians to analyse the vast amount of data from more than 300 advanced and conventional sensors.
Ultimately ESA wants to develop a craft capable of future reusable space transportation.