[Satellite TODAY 02-13-12] The European Space Agency (ESA)
are set to launch their first Vega rocket Feb. 13 in a qualification flight from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, the organizations confirmed Feb. 10.
The maiden Vega flight will carry nine satellites into orbit, but its primary mission is to prove that the new rocket’s systems work as designed. Vega was developed to assure European access to space for payload classes weighing less than 2.5 tons.
European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said that Vega’s availability allows European operators to have more control over the schedules of their space projects. He added that the rocket would provide a profitable return to the European economy and not to foreign industry. Satellites weighing less than 2.5 tons tend to launch on Russian-made rockets.