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Vega > Milestones

The lightweight Vega is the newest addition to Arianespace’s commercial launcher family, with its first flight performed from the Spaceport in February 2012.


  • March 17 – Skybox Imaging becomes the first U.S. customer for Vega, signing to launch a block of high-resolution imaging satellites from the Spaceport in 2016.
  • February 11 – Vega deploys the European Space Agency’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) on a suborbital mission to validate reentry technologies.  This is the fourth flight of the lightweight launcher, continuing its successful operation from French Guiana.


  • October 29 – The order for Arianespace’s acquisition of 10 Vega launchers is signed with Italy’s ELV.  These vehicles will enter service at the end of 2015 and represent three years of operations.  The production contract confirms the long-term viability of Vega, now established as the best launch vehicle in the light-lift class.
  • April 29 – The third Vega launch from French Guiana successfully orbits KazEOSat-1, a pioneering Earth observation satellite for the Republic of Kazakhstan.


  • December 17 – Arianespace announces a contract to launch two satellites into low Earth orbit with Vega on missions planned from French Guiana in 2017 and 2018.
  • November 20 – Arianespace orders 10 Vega launchers from Italian manufacturer ELV for missions beginning at the end of 2015, and covering more than three years of operations.  They follow the initial original Vega launcher used for the qualification flight in February 2012, and the five Vegas already ordered in 2010 within the scope of the VERTA contract.
  • May 7 – Vega’s second flight from French Guiana orbits a trio of satellites – Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 – on a mission that also marks start of operations under Arianespace responsibility for this light-lift launcher.
  • January 25 – Vega’s second flight campaign begins with the rollout of its first stage to the Spaceport’s SLV launch complex in French Guiana.  This mission, scheduled for liftoff in April, will orbit the Proba-V and VNREDSat-1A satellites – which weigh 160 kg. and 120 kg., respectively.   The flight is part of a five-mission European Space Agency program called VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment), which aims to demonstrate the Vega launch system’s flexibility as well as its ability to carry multiple satellite passengers.
  • January 4 – VNREDSat-1A will be launched on Vega’s no. 2 flight from French Guiana –  scheduled for the second quarter of 2013 – based on an Arianespace launch contract signed with Astrium on behalf of the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology.  Built by Astrium, this 120-kg. Earth observation satellite is to be carried in the lower position on a Vespa multiple payload carrier structure.


  • June 20 – A Vega launch contract is signed by Arianespace with Astrium for the DZZ-HR high-resolution observation satellite, which will be operated by Kazakhstan.  Scheduled for orbiting in the second quarter of 2014, the DZZ-HR agreement marks Arianespace’s third contract for Vega, and the first to serve an end-customer outside of Europe.
  • February 13 – Vega’s qualification flight – performed under responsibility of the European Space Agency – is a success, clearing the way for Arianespace to take charge of the lightweight launcher’s commercialization and operation.


  • December 14 The first commercial contract signing for Vega is announced by Arianespace, involving two satellites in the Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 families dedicated to Europe's GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) program.   The launches with these payloads are scheduled for 2014-2016 from the Spaceport in French Guiana.
  • November 7 Vega’s P80 first stage is rolled out to the Spaceport’s SLV launch pad – from where this vehicle’s qualification flight will be conducted in January 2012.  The launch campaign startup for this mission marks the first time that flight preparations are underway in parallel for each member of Arianespace’s full launcher family operating from French Guiana: the lightweight Vega, medium Soyuz and heavy-lift Ariane 5.
  • October 24 – The Arianespace launcher family becomes a reality as operational versions of the Vega, Soyuz and Ariane 5 are present in French Guiana, positioned for upcoming missions.  The no. 1 Vega for this lightweight launcher’s VV01 qualification flight in January 2012 arrives from Europe aboard the MN Colibri sea-going ship, along with a heavy-lift Ariane 5 for the VA205 mission in early 2012 with Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle.  They join a Soyuz that is being prepared for Arianespace’s second launch of the medium-lift vehicle from the Spaceport, which is scheduled for December 16, 2011.
  • October 6 – The no. 1 Vega to be launched from the Spaceport departs Europe for its sea-going voyage to French Guiana aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off ship. After arriving at the Spaceport, this Vega will be prepared for a liftoff scheduled in January 2012 with a multi-spacecraft payload composed of the LARES satellite and nine small cubesats from European universities. This will serve as the vehicle’s qualification flight, opening a series of missions to demonstrate the launch system’s flexibility.
  • February – A full-scale Vega model is assembled on the Spaceport’s SLV launch pad as part of validations for the mechanical, electrical and fluid elements of this newest member in Arianespace’s launcher family. The representative Vega was composed of inert first, second and third solid propellant stages, along with the AVUM bi-propellant liquid upper stage, the payload fairing with a satellite mockup and payload adapter.


  • October 26 A representative P80 first stage is moved to the Spaceport’s launch pad as the initial step for combined testing of Vega with its ground-based infrastructure. This full-scale stage is complete with instrumentation, and has been filled with a simulated load of solid propellant.
  • January 28 – The support services for Vega’s first launch campaign are defined in a contract signed by Arianespace and the European Space Agency. Testing will be conducted at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana in preparation for Vega's first flight toward the end of 2010.


  • February 20 – The ELA-1 facility's Vega mobile gantry performs its initial rollout test at the Spaceport in French Guiana.


  • July 9 – Elements for Vega’s launch site infrastructure at the Spaceport are delivered to Kourou's Pariacabo port.  These components include full-scale models of the Zefiro 23 second stage, Zefiro 9 third stage, and the AVUM upper stage, along with diverse hardware, tooling and structures from the Italian industrial partners in Vega’s ELV consortium.
  • March 27 – Zefiro 23, the second stage motor of the Vega launch vehicle, successfully passes its qualification test at the Salto di Quirra testing center in Sardinia. The process verifies the functional and mission features needed to begin production of the flight unit.


  • November 30 The P80 solid propellant motor – which powers Vega’s first stage – undergoes its first static test firing at Europe’s Spaceport, delivering a mean thrust of approximately 190 tons for more than 100 seconds. A peak of 250 tons was reached 7 seconds into the test.
  • June 26 – Vega’s second stage motor, the Zerifiro 23, undergoes its first static firing test at the Italian Ministry of Defence test centre in Salto di Quirra, Sardinia – delivering more than 100 metric tons of thrust and burning some 24 metric tons of solid propellant in 75 seconds.


  • February 25 – The European Space Agency signs a contract with the ELV company for completion of the Vega European small launcher program’s development phase at FiatAvio industrial park in Colleferro, Italy.


  • December 15 – The Vega Small Launcher Development program is formally approved by participating states Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland (with Spain’s decision pending).  


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