Why Europe’s Experimental Spaceship Is Shaped So Weirdly

Yesterday, an unmanned experimental spacecraft from the European Space Agency took off from French Guiana and, 100 minutes later, splashed down into the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos Islands. The spacecraft, called the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle, or IXV, didn’t look like your standard cone, though. It looked more—well, cinematic, for lack of a better word, kind of like a miniature space shuttle minus the wings and tail. And that odd shape might presage the future of space travel.

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