We all know what a big rocket launch looks like from the ground, but this is what it looks like from above the ground — 260 miles above the ground! The photo above was captured from the Space Station earlier today by NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, and it shows the contrail from a heavy-lift Ariane 5 that had just launched from ESA’s spaceport on the French Guiana coast: flight VA217, Arianespace’s milestone 250th launch carrying the ABS-2 and Athena-Fidus satellites into orbit.
Rick shared his view on Twitter with his nearly 39,000 followers, and now less than an hour later, we’re sharing it here. (Isn’t technology wonderful?)
For a more “natural” look, here it is reversed:
The ISS was in the process of passing over Costa Rica when the image was taken. The rocket launched from Kourou, French Guiana — about 2,175 miles (3,500 km) away. What a view!
For this and more great images from orbit follow Rick on Twitter @AstroRM.
Watch a video of the VA217 launch below:
The 250th launch performed by Arianespace lifted off from ESA’s spaceport in French Guiana, delivering a dual-satellite payload into geostationary transfer orbit: ABS-2 for global satellite operator ABS, and Athena-Fidus for the defense/homeland security needs of France and Italy. The flight lasted just over 32 minutes. (Source)
Europe scored a major space success with today’s (Feb. 13) flawless maiden launch of the brand new Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The four stage Vega lifted off on the VV01 flight at 5:00 a.m. EST (10:00 GMT, 11:00 CET, 07:00 local time) from a new launch pad in South America, conducted a perfectly executed qualification flight and deployed 9 science satellites into Earth orbit.
Vega is a small rocket launcher designed to loft science and Earth observation satellites.
The payload consists of two Italian satellites – ASI’s LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna’s ALMASat-1 – as well as seven picosatellites provided by European universities: [email protected] (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).
Three of these cubesats were the first ever satellites to be built by Poland, Hungary and Romania. They were constructed by University students who were given a once in a lifetime opportunity by ESA to get practical experience and launch their satellites for free since this was Vega’s first flight.
The 30 meter tall Vega has been been under development for 9 years by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partners, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), French Space Agency (CNES). Seven Member States contributed to the program including Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as well as industry.
ESA can now boast a family of three booster rockets that can service the full range of satellites from small to medium to heavy weight at their rapidly expanding South American Spaceport at the Guiana Space Center.
Vega joins Europe’s stable of launchers including the venerable Ariane V heavy lifter rocket family and the newly inaugurated medium class Russian built Soyuz booster and provides ESA with an enormous commercial leap in the satellite launching arena.
“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. There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.
“It is a great day for ESA, its Member States, in particularly Italy where Vega was born, for European industry and for Arianespace.”
Dordain noted that an additional 200 workers have been hired in Guiana to meet the needs of Europe’s burgeoning space programs. Whereas budget cutbacks are forcing NASA and its contractors to lay off tens of thousands of people as a result of fallout from the global economic recession.
ESA has already signed commercial contracts for future Vega launches and 5 more Vega rockets are already in production.
Vega’s light launch capacity accommodates a wide range of satellites – from 300 kg to 2500 kg – into a wide variety of orbits, from equatorial to Sun-synchronous.
“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,” said Antonio Fabrizi, ESA’s Director of Launchers.
ESA and Arianespace have signed a contract planning the launch of ESA’s new IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) on Europe’s new Vega Rocket in 2014. Vega is Europe’s new small launch system and it is designed to complement the heavy Ariane 5 and medium Soyuz Rocket systems launched from French Guiana.
The small rocket is capable of a wide range of payloads up to 1.5 tonnes, compared to Ariane 5 which can lift 20 tonnes, making it especially suitable for the commercial space market. The Vega Rocket will launch the IXV into a suborbital trajectory from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, IXV will then return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, to test and qualify new critical technologies for future re-entry vehicles.
The IXV will reach a velocity of 7.5km/s at an altitude of around 450km and then re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere gathering data about its flight. The vehicle will encounter hypersonic and supersonic speeds and will be controlled with complex avionics, thrusters and flaps.
Once the vehicle’s speed has been reduced enough, it will deploy a parachute, descend and land safely in the Pacific Ocean.
This flight will record data for the next five VERTA missions (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment – Programme), which will demonstrate the systems re-usable versatility.
Two launches a year are planned for the new programme and construction of infrastructure including mission control and communications networks is currently underway.
Development and completion of the design, manufacturing and assembly is now underway for a flight window between January and September 2014.