Inaugural Vega Rocket Poised at Europe’s South American Spaceport

[/caption]

Final preparations are in full swing for the inaugural flight of Europe’s new light launcher – the Vega booster – from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch crews are preparing the new rocket for blastoff as early as Feb 9, 2012 from the new Vega launch site at Kourou.

Vega has been under development for 9 years by ESA and its partners, Italian space agency ASI, French space agency CNES and industry.

The 30 meter tall Vega will join ESA’s venerable Ariane rocket family and the newly inaugurated Soyuz as the third class of booster rockets to launch from ESA’s rapidly expanding South American Spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.

1st Vega Rocket at pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

This gives ESA an enormous commercial leap and wide ranging capability to launch all types of satellites from small to big and heavy.

The 4 stage Vega rocket is now fully assembled at the launch pad for the initial qualification flight dubbed VV1. The launch window stretches for a few days beyond Feb. 9.

The Vega VV1 qualification flight will carry 9 satellites to orbit.

The payloads are housed inside the ‘upper composite’ composed of the payload fairing and adapter and were integrated on top of the AVUM fourth stage by pad workers on Jan. 24, who completed and verified all the electrical and mechanical connections and links.

Fully assembled Vega VV01 on pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

The satellites aboard include the LARES laser relativity satellite, ALMASat-1 from ASI and seven CubeSats from an assortment of European Universities.

Vega's upper composite, comprising LARES, ALMASat-1, seven CubeSats and the fairing, was transferred to the pad on 24 January and added to the vehicle at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA - M. Pedoussaut, 2012

The main tasks remaining before the maiden flight are the final checkout of the assembled vehicle, the last launch countdown rehearsal and the fuelling of the restartable AVUM 4th stage with liquid propellants.

The Vega launch site is located at the previous ELA-1 complex, originally used for Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 missions and has been rebuilt and upgraded.

Fully assembled Vega VV01 on pad. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

The Vega rocket is specifically designed to fill a market gap in ESA’s satellite launch capabilities, namely the smaller, lightweight science and earth observation satellites.

It can launch payloads ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg in mass, depending on the customers orbital requirements.

Vega affords ESA full market coverage by complementing the medium and heavy weight payload categories covered by the Soyuz and Ariane V rockets.

1st Fully assembled Vega on launch pad for Inaugural Flight - February 2012. Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja

Watch Universe Today for Vega maiden launch coverage and special launch pictures

Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Recent Posts

Astronomers still scratching their heads over population of ocean-world exoplanets

In a recent study submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, an international team of researchers…

3 hours ago

Dwarf Planet Quaoar has a Ring

Quaoar is one of about 3,000 dwarf planets in our Solar System's Kuiper Belt. Astronomers…

8 hours ago

Could a Dark Energy Phase Change Relieve the Hubble Tension?

A new study suggests that the Hubble Constant could be resolved by the presence of…

9 hours ago

A Russian Satellite Has Broken Into Pieces, Littering Debris in Space

A Russian KOSMOS 2499 satellite broke up last month -- for a second time --…

10 hours ago

New Discoveries Puts Jupiter at 92 Known Moons

The moon hunter strikes again. A team of astronomers led by Scott Sheppard of the…

15 hours ago

The World's Largest Radio Telescope Just Scanned 33 Exoplanets for a Signal From Aliens

Using China's FAST telescope and a new technique, an international team of astronomers scanned 33…

1 day ago