Vega Gets Ready For Exploitation
The Vega launch vehicle program has recently taken several major steps towards operation: the decision has been made to start the qualification launch campaign; ESA and Arianespace have ordered four new launchers; studies for the launch of the LISA Pathfinder mission have started.
Launch campaign kickoff
The Flight Readiness Review (FFR) for the Vega launcher was held in Frascati, Italy on 13 and 14 October. Based on this review, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to start the Vega qualification launch campaign, with Arianespace’s operating staff providing their support for this campaign. The stages for the qualification launcher arrived in Kourou on 24 October, and the launch campaign will start on 7 November 2011 with the transfer of the first stage to the launch pad. The first launch is scheduled for the end of January 2012.
ESA and Arianespace have ordered four new Vega launchers
ESA, Arianespace and ELV, the launcher production prime, signed a contract in September for the production of four new Vega operational launchers. This contract complements the purchase of a first launcher in an agreement signed last year within the framework of the Verta contract, covering the five launches that follow Vega´s qualification flight.
Studies under way for the LISA Pathfinder mission
The studies for the launch of the LISA Pathfinder scientific satellite of ESA, using a Vega launcher from the Verta batch, started at the end of September. The mission is scheduled for a launch window from October 2013 to September 2014.
A small launcher for Europe
Vega is Europe´s new, small launcher. Its performance will perfectly complement that of the heavy Ariane 5 and medium Soyuz rockets. It is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations in order to respond to different market opportunities.
In particular, it offers configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites.
Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.
Vega is an ESA program funded by Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.
The industrial prime contractor is ELV SpA, 70% of which is owned by Avio SpA and 30% by ASI. ELV is responsible for the development and production of the launcher and for its delivery and integration at the launch site.
As the future Vega launch service provider, Arianespace is responsible for launch operations.
Image Caption: Full-scale Vega mock-up on launch pad. Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2011
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