Arianespace Successfully Launches Vega on Return-to-Flight Mission with 53 Smallsats

Arianespace Successfully Launches Vega on Return-to-Flight Mission with 53 Smallsats

The launch, designated VV16, gets completed after delays stemming from technical issues, payload logistical challenges, the coronavirus pandemic, and constant poor weather.

Fremont, CA: Arianespace, a European launch provider, carried out a successful return-to-flight mission of Vega, its light-lift rocket, on September 2, completing the vehicle’s first launch in 14 months.

Vega took off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:51 p.m. Eastern, lugging 53 satellites to low Earth orbit in the debut of Arianespace’s Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dedicated rideshare offering. The first four smallsats separated around 40 minutes later, followed by another three smallsats roughly 52 minutes after the takeoff.

Top 10 Geospatial Intelligence Solution Companies - 2020The rest 46 satellites separated within two and a half minutes, starting one hour and 42 minutes after taking off. Vega’s upper stage carried out a final burn two hours and four minutes after liftoff to deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere.

The launch, designated VV16, gets completed after delays stemming from technical issues, payload logistical challenges, the coronavirus pandemic, and constant poor weather.

The European Space Agency, which together with the European Commission, helped finance the proof-of-concept mission and declared plans in 2017 to launch the smallsat Vega mission in 2018. However, not all customers were prepared by then, pushing the launch out to the second half of 2019.

Vega saw its first failure in July 2019, demolishing the United Arab Emirates’ FalconEye-1 reconnaissance satellite and driving SSMS into 2020. Avio, the rocket’s manufacturer, identified the failure’s most probable cause to the lack of thermal protection in Vega’s second stage, the Zefiro-23.

Vega was considered ready for its SSMS mission in March when the COVID-19 outbreak became a global pandemic, resulting in widespread travel bans and the termination of launch activity at the Guiana Space Center. The French government, which looks after the South American spaceport, slackening travel restrictions in May, allowing launch personnel to travel to the Guiana Space Center so long as they comply with a 14-day quarantine after arrival.

See also: Top Space Technology Companies

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