February 13, 2012
Vega Launcher Qualification Flight A Success
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Vega launch vehicle successfully lifted off from the ground this morning.
The new launch vehicle is ready to operate alongside the Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers after Monday's qualification flight in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA said that with this launch being successful, Europe now covers the full range of launch needs, including small science and Earth observation satellites, to missions like resupplying the International Space Station.
"There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service," Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, said in a press release.
Vega is able to accommodate a wide range of satellites to carry them into a variety of orbits, even carrying a 3,306-pound satellite, 434-miles above the Earth.
“In a little more than three months, Europe has increased the number of launchers it operates from one to three, widening significantly the range of launch services offered by the European operator Arianespace," Dordain said in the press release.
The development of Vegas started in 2003, and included Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as part of the Member States who helped developed it.
The 100-foot-tall spacecraft took off at 7:00 local time in French Guiana, and spent 70 minutes on its mission.
It placed nine payloads in orbit, including a physics experiment to test Einstein's theory of general relativity.
During Vega's four-stages, its first three segments burn a solid fuel, and its fourth uses liquid propellants and can be stopped and restarted to get a spacecraft into the right orbit.
“Today is a moment of pride for Europe as well as those around 1000 individuals who have been involved in developing the world´s most modern and competitive launcher system for small satellites,” Antonio Fabrizi, ESA´s Director of Launchers, said in a press release.
Image Caption: On 13 February 2012, the first Vega lifted off on its maiden flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012
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