Vega’s second Spaceport mission: the launcher is assembled and ready for final checkout
The lightweight Vega marked its latest step toward a planned May 2 launch as the basic build-up of this latest member in Arianespace’s launcher family is now complete in French Guiana following the integration of a three-satellite payload.
The “upper composite” of Vega’s three satellite passengers – encapsulated by the protective payload fairing – is lowered into position atop the lightweight launcher inside the ZLV launch facility’s mobile gantry.
The vehicle’s “upper composite” – consisting of the mission’s Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 satellite passengers inside their protective payload fairing – was installed atop Vega at the Spaceport’s ZLV launch site during the weekend.
This activity occurred inside the protective mobile gantry at the ZLV facility, which then was partially rolled back to allow for radio frequency tests with Vega in its launch configuration.
The Proba-V passenger on Vega’s upcoming mission is a 160-kg. spacecraft for the European Space Agency, designed to map land cover and vegetation growth across the Earth every two days. It was produced by prime contractor QinetiQ Space Belgium and carries a new, advanced version of the Vegetation instrument.
Vietnam’s 120-kg. VNREDSat-1 optical satellite will support the country’s initiative to create an infrastructure that enables better studies of climate change effects, improving predictions for natural disasters and optimizing the country’s natural resource management. It was built by Astrium on behalf of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST).
Completing the payload is Estonia’s ESTCube-1 student nanosatellite, which will test electric solar wind sail technologies and help establish an Estonian infrastructure for future space projects. The 1.3-kg. cubesat was produced in a collaboration of students from the Estonian Aviation Academy, Tallinn University of Technology, Tartu University and the University of Life Sciences – and developed in conjunction with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the German Space Center (DLR).
The May 2 Vega flight – designated VV02 in Arianespace’s mission numbering system – marks the debut of the Europe Space Agency’s VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment) program to demonstrate the light-lift vehicle’s flexibility and versatility. It follows Vega’s qualification mission, performed from the Spaceport in February 2012.
Tailored for the orbiting of small- to medium-sized satellites, Vega was developed in a European Space Agency program led by Italy’s ASI space agency and industrial prime contractor ELV SpA. Vega joins the two other members of Arianespace’s vehicle family: its medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5.