An arianespace Vega rocket he is ready for an epic return to flight, while the European booster is preparing to bring 53 satellites into orbit this evening (June 28).
Time that permeates me, the Arianespace The Vega rocket will launch a huge mission to re-share from Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 21:51 EDT (22:51 local time; 0151 GMT on June 29). The rocket carries satellite payloads from 13 countries. You can watch the launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of Arianespace or directly through Arianespace on YouTube.
It will be the first flight of a Vega rocket from a launch failure almost a year ago. On 1
Today’s launch has been delayed since June 18 due to bad weather and could be postponed if the weather doesn’t cooperate tonight, Arianespace said. The last attempt to launch was on Saturday (June 27), when strong winds prevented the launch.
“Subject to a favorable evolution of weather conditions, another attempt will be made on Sunday 28 June,” said Arianespace representatives said in a statement. “The Vega launch vehicle and its 53 payloads for spacecraft are in stable and safe conditions”
reported: Error launching the Vega rocket in July caused by a defective engine
This new mission will be an evolution of Vega’s capabilities. The four-stage rocket will launch a concept test flight for its small space service (SSMS), which will send dozens of satellites into space for 21 customers.
The service is Arianespace’s answer to a major industry pivot far from the launch of large single satellites in space. While some large satellites continue to be launched on the company’s rockets, in recent years the demand for small satellites has increased exponentially as computers and small satellite components become smaller and cheaper. In a mission description, Arianespace noted that the launch “will address the subsegment of the nanosatellite and microsatellite market, meeting both institutional and commercial needs.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) financed the development of the SSMS hardware and (in collaboration with the European Union) the concept flight test. ESA said in a separate statement that more customers are already keen to take part in the next opportunity to re-share Vega, as the high number of satellites per launch reduces individual costs for participants.
“This [demand] it gives us great confidence that this new service will become a vital part of Vega’s launch service, “said Renato Lafranconi, head of ESA’s Vega exploitation program.
The huge satellite beam includes 46 cubesats and seven microsatellites, distributed in a special distributor that has two sections. The lower section can hold up to six nanosatellites or up to a dozen slightly larger cubesat implementers. The upper section is for microsatellites, minisatellites and small satellites. Another distributor configuration could see a large satellite in the upper section and many satellites occupying the lower section, ESA said.
Among this great launch group, here are some of the payloads:
- The Canadian startup GHGSat Inc., which launched its first satellite in 2016, has a new satellite on Vega. Called GHGSat-C1, the satellite will monitor greenhouse gas emissions.
- The first Slovenian microsatellite, NEMO-HD, will be launched to perform terrestrial imaging. This satellite is intended for the Slovenian Center of Excellence for Space Sciences and Technologies and was built at the Spaceflight Laboratory of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies.
- UPMSat-2 is a demonstration microsatellite of educational technology led by the research institute of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Technical University of Madrid). Its purpose is to “provide students with the skills to design, analyze, build, integrate, test and operate the platform,” said Arianespace.
- The ESAIL maritime location satellite will be the first commercial microsatellite developed under an ESA ship monitoring program. The satellite was built by Luxembourg’s LuxSpace for a Canadian company called Exact Earth, which manages a satellite naval location constellation. Ships automatically transmit visible signals from orbit, showing information such as the nationality of a ship and the port of origin.
When the top of Vega reaches space, the rocket’s satellite dispenser will release the satellites in a coordinated sequence, ESA said. The satellites will be deployed in a “synchronous orbit in the sun”, an almost polar orbit that allows a satellite to pass over the same part of the Earth at the same local time of day. The satellites will orbit at an altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers).
After all the satellites have been deployed, the upper stage of the rocket will push the distributor to safely return to Earth’s atmosphere, avoiding the problem of the distributor becoming dead space junk.
Should this mission succeed, Arianespace said it plans to implement further rideshares on the next Vega-C launcher, a light rocket that will eventually replace Vega. The first test flight of Vega-C is scheduled for the end of 2020.
The new launcher, Arianespace said in its statement, “will offer an additional 700 kg [roughly 1,500 lbs.] capacity and volume expanded within a wider launch fairing, at the same launch cost as Vega before. “The increased capacity will allow Vega-C to pilot multiple satellites per launch and reduce the cost by weight, added Arianespace.