An ESA project called Vega C will strengthen Arianespace’s position in the market for launching small satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). Vega C is an improved and more potent version of the present Vega launch vehicle.
With its adaptability, the Vega C launch vehicle can be used for a variety of missions, from nanosatellites to bigger optical and radar surveillance spacecraft. The deployment of numerous satellite passengers on Vega C will be made easier by payload adapters, enabling configurations featuring primary payloads followed by microsats or CubeSats.
In its inaugural launch on July 13, Europe’s brand-new Vega C medium-lift rocket carried six cubesats plus an Italian physics satellite. At the conclusion of a two-hour launch window, the four-stage rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:13 a.m. Eastern. The countdown had twice been stopped by technical difficulties.
The main payload, the 295-kilogram Laser Relativity Satellite-2 (LARES-2), from Italy, was launched into an unusually steep orbit at a distance of 5,893 kilometers in order to verify Einstein’s general relativity theory. Six cubesats were deployed about 45 minutes after LARES-2, which took about 85 minutes to launch.
ALPHA, which intends to demonstrate technology for comprehending the Earth’s magnetosphere, Greencube, and AstroBio are three of the cubesats that are also from Italy. AstroBio will test a method for identifying biomolecules in orbit. Greencube will conduct an experiment to grow plants in microgravity.
They were joined by Celesta and MTCube-2 from France as well as Trisat-R from Slovenia, which will investigate how radiation affects electronic equipment. Following a flight that lasted roughly two hours and fifteen minutes, Arianespace, which carried out the launch, pronounced the operation a success in a media release.
According to Arianespace CEO Stéphane Isral, “with this first launch officially deemed a success, Arianespace will immediately start Vega C operations, a crucial landmark for European independent access to space.
The Pléiades Neo 5 as well as 6 Earth-imaging satellites, which were built and are operated by Airbus, will be placed in orbit during the Vega C’s maiden commercial launch, which is expected for November. Vega C, which is replacing Vega, which is retiring after its initial launch ten years ago, features more potent rocket motors as well as a larger payload volume.
As per the European Space Agency, the updated rocket can lift approximately 2.3 metric tons, up from its predecessor’s 1.5 metric tons, to a reference 700-kilometer-high polar orbit.
The first stage of Vega C is propelled by a P120 engine which will also be utilized by Europe’s future Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which includes two variants for substituting Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the Russian-origin Soyuz rocket.
On July 12, ESA announced that the Ariane 6 central core, which consists of its upper stage and core stage, had been moved to a launchpad in Kourou for joint tests in preparation for a first launch the following year.
Three pylons modeled after the rocket’s solid boosters and an inert mockup of the 4th booster is attached to the central core to conduct testing such as tank filling and a computerized countdown sequence.