Vega Flight VV16


Launch date
Postponed until August 17, 2020
53 satellites
Launch vehicle
Launch site
Spaceport, French Guiana (Guiana Space Center)
21 different customers
Prime contractor(s)
Almost 20 manufacturers
Sun-Synchronous orbit
Launch postponed


For its fifth mission in 2020 and the first Vega flight of the year, Arianespace will orbit 53 satellites on the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) Proof of Concept (PoC) Flight, performed on behalf of 21 customers.

With this mission, designated Flight VV16, Arianespace underscores its comprehensive range of innovative and very competitive services to address the nano- and micro-satellite market sub-segment, serving both institutional and commercial needs. The creation of such a new service using the company’s light-lift Vega led to the SSMS project.

The European Space Agency (ESA) funded the SSMS hardware development, and also contributed with the European Union to the funding of this “Proof of Concept” (PoC) flight.

The combined European efforts will enhance Arianespace’s response to the rideshare demand with solutions that are perfectly suited to the flourishing small satellite market.


The first SSMS mission

VV16’s mission, with 21 customers from 13 countries on board, will serve different types of applications: earth observation, telecommunications, sciences, technology/education, etc.

By choosing Arianespace, all customers are entitled to the same level of quality and reliability. New customers such as laboratories, universities and start-ups are guaranteed the optimum conditions for the launch of their space projects.

For the European partners involved, the SSMS’ purpose is to perfectly address the bourgeoning microsatellite market for institutional and commercial needs by offering a new rideshare concept on the Vega light-lift launcher.

The SSMS rideshare concept is now integrated into Arianespace commercial offer, as a new service to address the small satellite market.

This Arianespace’s concept – with multiple small satellites from 1 kg. to 500 kg. being flown together on Vega with the objective of sharing the launch cost – has been developed with the support of ESA and Avio. The satellite dispenser is an ESA product developed by Avio under ESA leadership and it is produced by the Czech company, SAB Aerospace s.r.o. Satellite integration has been performed for the first time in Europe (Czech Republic).

The European Union contributed to the financing of this PoC flight.

The SSMS dispenser is composed of different modular components, which can be put together as needed in a building-block style:

  • An upper portion, with a central column, tower or hexagon; a supporting platform; adjustable rods and dividers.
  • A lower portion, also using a hexagon-shaped module (Hexamodule) to accommodate several deployers for CubeSats.

For Flight VV16, the launcher will carry seven microsatellites (from 15 kg. to 150 kg.) on the upper portion, along with 46 smaller CubeSats on the lower portion’s Hexamodule.

The satellite industry’s sizing of CubeSats is based on standard unit dimensions (designated as: “U”) of 10 cm. x 10 cm. x 10 cm., and the 46 CubeSat passengers on Flight VV16 range in size from 1/4 Unit up to 6 Units. Their sizing distribution is as follows: 26 satellites of 3 U; 12 satellites at 1/4 U; six satellites of 6 U; one satellite at 2 U; and one satellite at 1 U.

The SSMS dispenser has been designed to be as market-responsive as possible, able to accommodate any combination of customers. Regular follow-on SSMS flights are planned once the more powerful Vega-C launcher begins operations. This will offer an extra 700 kg of capacity and enlarged volume within a wider launcher fairing – at the same Vega launch cost as before – so Arianespace will be able to fly even more passengers per individual SSMS rideshare launch at significant lower cost per kilo.

The constellations and small satellites [0-500kg] market remains dynamic. This trend must continue: according the market projections, 200-300 nano satellites per year to be launched during the next decade, knowing that most (more than 80%) will be provided by constellations projects.

Arianespace will be able to respond to this demand thanks to the dual strategy of shared launches on the dual strategy of shared launches on Vega / Vega C and Ariane 6.

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