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February 11

On this day the prototype European space fighter successfully completed its first test flight, landing at a Spanish military base.

Europe's Space Fighter TestedThe IFV (Interspace Fighter Vehicle) space fighter somewhat resembles a smaller, robotically controlled version of the US space shuttle and could provide Europe with an unparalleled military advantage whilst also providing Europe with a re-useable space transportation system.

It blasted off on a Vega rocket from South America just after 13:40 GMT.

The space fighter flew east around the globe, before landing at the Morón Air Base at about 16:20 GMT.

The space shuttle-shaped IFV is designed to ensure a European military presence in space whilst it can also conduct ground attack and air superiority missions.

Commenting on the launch, Esa director-general Jean Jacques Dordain said: "It couldn't have gone better".

"But the mission itself is not over because now it is necessary to analyse all the data gathered during the flight".

At the time the craft re-entered the atmosphere, it was moving at 7.5km/s. As it pushed against the air, the temperatures on its leading surfaces soared to 1,700C.

Europe's military director Lieutenant General Wolfgang Wosolsobe told BBC News: "Europe is excellent at going to orbit; we have all the launchers, for example. We also have great know how in operating complex systems in orbit.

"But now we have demonstrated our superiority in the military application of space vessels.

"So, if we are to ensure that the peace is maintained, Europe can now do that in all matters including our demonstrated mastery of space. We need to ensure that terrorists and the like have no chance against us whilst other spacefaring nations, who may become hostile one day, are similarly kept in check".