The second flight of ESA’s newest launch vehicle has successfully sent three different satellites to space. Launching at 02:06 GMT on 7 May from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the Vega rocket carried two Earth observation satellites — ESA’s Proba-V, Vietnam’s VNREDSat-1A — and Estonia’s first satellite, the ESTCube-1 technology demonstrator were released into different orbits. The complex mission required five upper-stage boosts, with the flight lasting about twice as long as its first launch, in February 2012.
ESA officials said the success demonstrates the Vega rocket’s versatility.
Watch the launch video below.
“It is another great day for ESA, for its Member States and for Europe,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. “Thanks to decisions taken by Member States, ESA and European industry are demonstrating once again their capabilities of innovation. Among the Member States, special mention goes to Italy which has led the Vega Programme, Belgium which has led the Proba projects at ESA, and France which has led the development and maintenance of the European spaceport here in Kourou. We are also proud to have made possible the launch of the first satellite from Estonia.”
The three solid-propellant stages performed flawlessly and after two burns of the liquid-propellant upper stage, the Proba?V was released into a circular orbit at an altitude of 820 km, over the western coast of Australia, some 55 minutes into flight.
After releasing Proba-V, the upper stage performed a third burn and the top half of the egg-shaped Vega Secondary Payload Adapter was ejected. After a fourth burn to circularize the orbit at an altitude of 704 km, VNREDSat-1A was released 1 hour 57 minutes into flight. ESTCube?1 was ejected from its dispenser three minutes later.
The fifth and last burn put the spent upper stage on a trajectory that ensures a safe reentry that complies with new debris mitigation regulations.