Vega > Overview
The Arianespace commercial launcher family has grown with the addition of Vega, a new vehicle for flights with small- to medium-sized satellite payloads.
This European four-stage launcher is tailored to carry the growing number of small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads under development or planned worldwide.
Vega's target payload lift capability is 1,500 kg. on missions to a 700-km. circular orbit.
With a height of 30 meters, Vega is operated by Arianespace from the Spaceport’s ZLV launch facility in French Guiana. This was the launch site for the original Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 vehicles, and it has been updated and adapted where needed to meet the operational requirements of this new lightweight vehicle.
Since beginning operations in 2012, Vega has an essential role within the family of European launchers, joining Ariane 5 (which is optimized for large satellites on missions to geostationary transfer orbit, and low-Earth orbits with very heavy payloads), and Soyuz (tailored for medium weight payloads for low-Earth orbit and certain smaller GTO spacecraft).
A dedicated Arianespace team
An Arianespace team fully dedicated to Vega activity was created by the company in early 2003, and operations of the vehicle are being handled by launch teams that support Ariane 5 as well as Soyuz – which joined the company’s launcher family at the Spaceport in 2011.
Vega's first stage is powered by the P80 advanced solid propellant motor. This stage features a novel filament-wound casing structure – utilizing new-generation, high-quality production techniques.
The second and third stages (designated Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9, respectively) also use solid propellant motors, and the launcher is completed by the bi-propellant liquid upper stage (called AVUM – Attitude and Vernier Upper Module). Topping off the vehicle is its upper composite, consisting of the mission’s satellite passengers and protective payload fairing. The typical liftoff mass of Vega is 139 metric tons.
Vega's successful qualification flight in February 2012 cleared the way for Arianespace to take charge of the vehicle’s commercialization and operation. The vehicle is expected to be operated at an average launch rate of 1-2 missions per year.