The VEGA launcher is preparing for a commercial future with VEGA-C
The rocket of the European Space Agency (ESA) for the launch of small satellites, designed and built with Italy’s important contribution, is preparing to enter the second generation with VEGA-C, with the first launch scheduled for 2019. To date, the VEGA launcher has already an order portfolio for 10 launches, one third of which from non-European institutions and companies.
The VEGA launcher – Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket – is a rocket designed to launch small satellites, developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) with a considerable contribution from Italy, which financed 65% of its development. The design authority and prime contractor is the Italian company ELV, a joint venture between AVIO (70%) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) (30%), while the company Arianespace markets and operates this light launcher alongside the Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers.
Avio and Arianespace recently held the “Vega User Day” in Rome to review the operations and commercial and institutional success of the VEGA launcher and present its new version, VEGA-C, which will begin to be marketed in 2016, with the first launch scheduled for 2019. “VEGA has confirmed its capability as a very competitive and flexible launcher. This meeting is an excellent opportunity to meet potential customers from all over the world and share with them the latest successes of our launcher, thus paving the way for future missions” said Giulio Ranzo, CEO of AVIO, at the opening event.
First launched into orbit in 2012 from the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana, VEGA already boasts 6 missions, all successful, and these excellent results have demonstrated the launcher’s operational potential and its versatility. In November 2015, the success of the LISA Pathfinder mission, conducted on behalf of ESA, marked the end of the VEGA development phase, designated VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment), and the beginning of its commercial operation. To date, VEGA has an order portfolio for 10 launches, one third of which will be made on behalf of European institutions and two thirds for export customers. Two missions are scheduled for 2016: one in September with the launch of PeruSat-1 for Peru and SkySat for Google’s startup Terra Bella, and a second mission with the launch into orbit of the Gotkurt satellite for Turkey.
Encouraged by this success, the VEGA launcher is preparing for the development of its “consolidated” version designated VEGA-C, which will offer a significant performance improvement in terms of payload weight and volume compared to the current model, allowing broader mission capability and increasing the competitiveness of this launch system. For example, VEGA C will allow expanding the payload capacity up to 2200 kilograms into a 700 km polar reference orbit.