Arianespace Sends ESA’s First Vega Rocket into Orbit

[Satellite TODAY Insider 02-14-12] Arianespace has successfully launched the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first Vega rocket, which placed two scientific research satellites and seven picosatellites into orbit, ESA and Arianespace confirmed Feb. 13.

   The Vega light-lift rocket was launched from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Among its payloads, the rocket placed Hungary’s first satellite, MaSat-1 into orbit. Vega was designed to launch payloads of up to 1,500 kg at an altitude of 700 km and joins Arianespace’s Ariane 5 and Soyuz rockets as part of its service portfolio.
   Arianespace will be in charge of the commercialization and exploitation of Vega. With its addition, the company is now able to launch any size payload into any orbit, including telecommunications satellites, scientific or Earth observation satellites, constellations and missions to the International Space Station. The new booster is designed to serve as a launcher for small payloads to complement Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rockets and the medium-class Russian Soyuz rockets that lift off from the Guiana Space Center.
   Following the launch, Arianespace CEO and Chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall congratulated partners ESA, the Italian Space Agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales and a conglomerate of industrial partnerships.
   “This success comes after nine years of cooperative development. Well done Europe,” Le Gall said in a statement. “Even before this first launch, Arianespace and ESA already signed the first commercial launch service and solutions contract for the European Union launch of Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 spacecraft on Vega.”
   ESA spent 700 million euros ($930 million) and nearly nine years developing the four-stage Vega rocket and plans to spend another 300 million euros ($399 million) on the booster’s first five flights.
   “Today is a moment of pride for Europe as well as those around 1,000 individuals who have been involved in developing the world’s most modern and competitive launcher system for small satellites,” ESA Launch Vehicle Director Antonio Fabrizi in a statement.
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