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ESA Postpones Vega Rocket Launch Because Of Strong Winds

May 6, 2013
Image Caption: ESA Vega rocket sits on the launch pad awaiting lift-off. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Update (May 6 at 10:15 a.m.)

ESA´s second Vega flight, VV02, due for a launch this past weekend, was canceled at last minute due to unfavorable weather conditions. The Vega rocket was scheduled to lift off on May 4 from Europe´s Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying Proba-V as the prime payload.

Proba-V is the first of four ESA missions in the Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment (VERTA) program, which will demonstrate the system´s flexibility. The Vega rocket is also carrying Estonia´s ESTCube-1 satellite and Vietnam´s VNREDSat-1.

Strong easterly winds at low and medium altitude were a potential risk and mission operators decided last minute to scrub the launch, postponing it until winds weaken to an acceptable level. Regular measurements are ongoing with weather balloons evaluating the conditions.

Both the rocket and the payloads are in stable condition and ready for launch when a safe window opens. The ESA mission operators said the rocket can remain on the launch pad awaiting appropriate conditions for several days.

Main Story (Apr 29 at 8:14 a.m.)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to launch the first of four missions as it starts an ambitious transition to commercial exploitation. The first launch, scheduled for May 3, will actually be the second launch for Vega, a rocket that has shown increased capabilities and flexibility to meet various demands in the launcher market.

The upcoming Vega flight VV02 will further show extended capabilities made possible by the addition of the new Vega Secondary Payload Adapter (VESPA). This adapter can carry multiple payloads and, in the next mission, it will release three satellites into two different orbits.

The first mission will include the Proba-V as the prime payload. Proba-V is a miniature ESA satellite that will take on a full-scale directive: to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days. Proba-V carries a reduced version of the Vegetation camera that is currently in use on the Spot satellites.

Vega will also be carrying VNRedsat (Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment and Disaster Monitoring Satellite), a satellite built by Astrium for the Vietnamese government.

The third payload in the mission is ESTCube-1, an Estonian cube satellite that will test advanced solar sail technologies and help establish future space projects of the country. The satellite will also showcase the possibility for future launches carrying cubesats, allowing EU member states to conduct simple, lower cost space missions.

By carrying a multiple payload, several changes had to be made to the flight. VV02 will change both the inclinations and the orbital altitudes for the satellites. This complex procedure will result in a much longer 160-minute mission — more than double the flight of VV01.

Proba-V will be the first payload to be released. It will go into a Sun-synchronous orbit at 492 miles above Earth at an inclination of 98.73 degrees. At this point, the Vespa adapter will separate and Vega will complete a series of five burns and coasts to move into a second orbit at about 400 miles up at an inclination of 98.13 degrees to release the remaining satellites, according to an ESA news release.

This second Vega mission will also have new telemetry instruments. To receive telemetry during the early phase of the flight, a new ground station has been built in northern French Guiana.

The VV02 launch will be conducted by Arianespace on behalf of the ESA. This is the company´s first Vega lift-off. The ESA will still oversee the mission.


Source: Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online