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Vega March 6, 2017

Flight VV09: Arianespace uses Vega to successfully launch the Sentinel-2B satellite for Europe’s Copernicus program

Arianespace has successfully launched the Sentinel-2B satellite for the European Commission within the scope of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The launch took place on Monday, March 6, at 10:49 p.m. local time from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

This was the third launch of the year for Arianespace and the first in 2017 with the Vega light launcher. It also marked the ninth successful launch in a row for Vega, which made its debut at the Guiana Space Center in 2012.

With this latest successful launch, Arianespace once again demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development, while also carrying out its mission of guaranteeing European independent access to space.

Arianespace at the service of sustainable development with the European Copernicus program

Following the successful launches of Sentinel-1A, Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-1B, today’s mission with Sentinel-2B marks the fourth satellite in the European Commission’s Copernicus Earth observation program to be orbited by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center.

The Sentinel-2B Earth observation satellite mainly focuses on monitoring land masses and coastal zones around the world. It will be positioned in an orbit opposite that of Sentinel-2A to ensure optimum coverage and data delivery. The pair of Sentinel-2 satellites will cover the Earth’s entire surface in five days. This high frequency means they will capture brand-new views of the Earth, driving considerable progress in monitoring and predicting changes in vegetation and aquatic pollution.

Sentinel-2B combines a multispectral, wide-swath, very-high-resolution optical imaging instrument with a dedicated platform developed by Airbus, a long-standing partner to Arianespace. It is the 117th Airbus-built satellite to be launched by Arianespace. There are 16 more satellites from this manufacturer in Arianespace’s order book, not counting the OneWeb constellation.

Sentinel-2B is the 61st Earth observation satellite to be launched by Arianespace. These types of satellites represents 10% of all spacecraft launched by Arianespace since being founded, and 23% of its current order backlog (in number of satellites).

ESA’s Sentinel program includes six families of satellites:

  • Sentinel-1 will ensure data continuity with the ERS and Envisat radar satellites.
  • Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 are designed to help provide a better understanding of how climate change impacts our daily lives.
  • Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 are dedicated to meteorology and climatology, with a special focus on studying the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Sentinel-6 will measure ocean topography, mainly for operational oceanography and climatology.

Arianespace guarantees independent and dependable access to space for Europe

With this launch on behalf of the European Commission and within the scope of an ESA contract, Arianespace fulfills its mission of guaranteeing independent and dependable access to space for Europe.

In 2017, Arianespace also will orbit four additional satellites for the Galileo program on behalf of the European Commission and ESA.

After this 55th mission for ESA, Arianespace’s order book still includes missions to orbit the following payloads on behalf of the European Space Agency:

  • 8 satellites for Galileo (2×4 satelites)
  • EDRS-C
  • and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

A new commercial success for Vega

The eight previous missions performed by Vega prior to Flight VV09 included both government and commercial customers. Looking ahead, the launcher’s order book – primarily comprising Earth observation missions – now counts seven launches, one-third of which are for European institutions and the remaining two-thirds for export customers.

Arianespace is gearing up for the future with Vega C, slated to make its first flight as from 2019. Vega C will:

  • Offer higher performance in terms of payload weight and volume;
  • Handle a greater variety of missions, from nano-satellites to large optical and radar observation satellites; and
  • Be more competitive as a result.

Vega profile

Vega is a European Space Agency (ESA) program, financed by Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

The launcher design authority and prime contractor is ELV/AVIO, an Italian joint venture between Avio (70%) and the Italian space agency ASI (30%).

Arianespace markets and operates this light launcher, alongside the Ariane 5 heavy launcher and the Soyuz medium launcher.

Shortly after the announcement that the Sentinel-2B satellite had been injected into orbit, Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël said: “With this third launch of the year, and the first in 2017 for our light launcher, Arianespace guarantees Europe’s independent access to space and continues to support actions in favor of sustainable development. Sentinel-2B is the fourth satellite launched by Arianespace for the European Copernicus program.

“I would like to thank the European Commission for their ongoing confidence, as well as ESA, our direct customer for this launch. Congratulations to all our partners in this latest success: Airbus, which built Sentinel-2B; the industrial prime contractor for Vega – ELV/Avio – which is  the artisan at our side in the success of Vega; the European Space Agency, whose support is essential for the Vega program, for which Italy’s ASI space agency is the leading financier; CNES/CSG and all companies and staff at the launch base, who continue to support us as we go from success to success; and lastly, congratulations to Arianespace’s own teams for the success of this 260th launch from the Guiana Space Center.”

The Sentinel-2B satellite was built by Airbus as prime contractor, leading an industry consortium.

 Sentinel-2B weighed 1,130 kg at launch, and will be positioned in Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 786 km, with an inclination of 98.57°.

The launcher carried a total payload of 1,208 kg on this mission.


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Vega February 27, 2017

Flight VV09: with Vega, Arianespace at the service of Earth observation for the European Commission’s Copernicus program

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