Arianespace’s launcher family keeps up the pace: the fifth Vega takes shape for its flight with Sentinel-2A
The fifth Vega launcher continues its integration process in French Guiana for a mission this summer to orbit Europe’s Sentinel-2A Earth observation satellite.
During activity at the Spaceport’s ZLV launch site, Vega’s Zefiro 23 solid propellant second stage has now been integrated atop the vehicle’s P80 first stage, which also uses solid propellant.
A zoom-in view (at top) details Vega’s Zefiro 23 solid propellant second stage during transfer, while a wider angle photo (at bottom) shows it approaching the Spaceport’s ZLV launch site. Silver-colored thermal protection is removed from the stage once inside the launch site’s mobile gantry.
This vertical assembly process is underway inside the launch pad’s mobile gantry, and will be followed by installation of Vega’s solid-propellant Zefiro 9 third stage and a top-off with the bi-propellant liquid upper stage called AVUM (Attitude and Vernier Upper Module).
The four-stage Vega was conceived as a capable lightweight launcher that complements Arianespace’s other two launch vehicles: the medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5, creating a complete family. Vega is tailored to orbit small- to medium-sized satellites, including institutional and scientific spacecraft. Its development was performed in a European program led by Italy’s ASI space agency and industrial prime contractor ELV SpA.
The Sentinel-2A payload to be lofted by Vega this summer is the latest in Europe’s series of Earth observation satellites for the Copernicus initiative, headed by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency. With its “color vision,” the 1,140-kg.-class Sentinel-2A spacecraft will deliver high-resolution and multispectral capabilities – providing a 290 km.-wide coverage path and frequent revisits.
Sentinel-2A was built by prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space. It will join Sentinel-1A, which carries an advanced radar instrument for all-weather, day-and-night imaging of the Earth’s surface and was orbited by Arianespace in April 2014 on a Soyuz launcher.
For Vega’s upcoming mission, the launch is designated Flight VV05 in Arianespace’s numbering system. It follows Vega launches performed last February (Flight VV04, using a suborbital trajectory to evaluate the European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle spaceplane demonstrator); in April 2014 (Flight VV03, with Kazakhstan’s KazEOSat-1/DZZ-HR Earth observation satellite); Flight VV02 in May 2013 (orbiting the Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 spacecraft); and Flight VV01 in February 2012 (with the LARES and ALMASat-1 payloads, accompanied by multiple cubesats).