Wednesday 13 July, Vega-C, the successor to ESA’s Vega launcher, accomplished a flawless first flight from the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, orbiting LARES-2, a science payload built for the Italian space agency ASI by Italy’s national institute of nuclear physics (INFN), along with six research cubesats for Italy, Slovenia and France. The launch was the third this year from the CSG and the 21st mission for the Vega series.
With a launch mass of 210 tonnes, Vega-C is an upgraded version of its predecessor with two new solid-rocket booster stages, a new fairing and an enhanced AVUM+ upper stage, all supported by a new ground infrastructure. It offers better performance and versatility, and more payload capacity to make it more competitive. Through its ability to return to Earth with Space Rider, the launcher also affords new mission possibilities heralding a new era in European spaceflight.
The satellites on this flight were injected into two different orbits, thus helping to qualify the Vega-C launch system. This medium-range launcher complements the larger Ariane launch system at Europe’s spaceport, enabling Europe to strengthen its independent space launch capability and tailor launch services to institutional, scientific and commercial space market needs.
Vega-C is an ESA programme in partnership with Avio, Italy, the launch vehicle and ground infrastructure prime contractor.
After the launch, CNES Chairman & CEO Philippe Baptiste commented: “This successful first flight for Vega-C marks the birth of a new family of European launchers. It is both the result of and a testament to a strong and longstanding European space partnership. CNES is proud to be playing its part in this human adventure built on consummate know-how, cooperation and vision. Congratulations to the teams at Avio, Arianespace, ESA and ASI, and to all the teams at the CSG, who once again have demonstrated France’s excellence and expertise in space.”
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