On the night of 16 to 17 August, Vega will lift off from Europe’s spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre (CSG) carrying the Pleiades Neo 4 optical satellite, built by its future operator Airbus Defence & Space, and four cubesats, three for the European Space Agency (ESA) and one for French start-up Unseenlabs. The launch will be the third this year from the CSG and the second for Vega, which will be making its 19th flight since entering service at the launch base in 2012.
With a launch mass of 922 kilograms, Pleiades Neo 4 will be joining Pleaides Neo 3 launched in April, also by Vega from the CSG. It is the second in an avant-garde constellation of four Earth-observation satellites. Offering a resolution of 30 centimetres and best-in-class geolocation accuracy, the four Pleiades Neo satellites will afford a fivefold improvement in responsiveness over existing constellations, enabling urgent acquisitions within 30 to 40 minutes of tasking requests in critical situations like natural disasters. Pleiades Neo 4 will also serve mapping, urban planning and defence applications. The satellite has an expected lifetime of ten years.
LEDSAT is a 1U cubesat to be operated for ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! programme. It is designed to study the performance of a technology based on LED lighting for autonomous optical monitoring of satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).
RADCUBE is a 3U cubesat that will enable ESA to validate miniaturized technologies for instruments designed to acquire in-situ measurements of space radiation and the magnetic field environment in LEO for space weather monitoring.
SUNSTORM is a 2U cubesat that will help ESA to detect X-ray pulses generated by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that hurl hundreds of millions of tonnes of material into space from the surface of the Sun. It will use an innovative X-ray solar spectrometer.
BRO-4 is a 6U cubesat developed by French start-up Unseenlabs. It will be joining the BRO (Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter) constellation to provide spectrum surveillance and signals intelligence for monitoring of shipping traffic.