On the night of 16 to 17 August, Vega accomplished a flawless launch from Europe’s spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre (CSG), orbiting the Pleiades Neo 4 optical satellite for Airbus Defence & Space and four cubesats, three for the European Space Agency (ESA) and one for French start-up Unseenlabs. The launch is the third this year from the CSG, the second for Vega and its 19th flight since entering service at the launch base in 2012.
With a launch mass of 922 kilograms, Pleiades Neo 4 is 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 is part of the BRO (Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter) constellation to provide spectrum surveillance and signals intelligence for monitoring of shipping traffic.
Commenting on this success, CNES Chairman & CEO Philippe Baptiste said: “This latest success for Vega is a great source of satisfaction for the teams at CNES, ESA, Arianespace, ASI, Avio and our customers and partners. I would like to congratulate and thank them all for their unfailing commitment, professionalism and expertise.”