18th Vega mission marks Arianespace’s second successful launch in 72 hours
- On April 28, Arianespace launched the 18th Vega mission (VV18), its second success in less than 72 hours and third of the year for the European launch services company.
– This launch orbited Pleiades Neo 3, the first satellite in the new very-high-resolution Earth observation constellation operated by Airbus, as well as five innovative small satellites using the advanced SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service) system.
– Vega’s successful return to flight followed the recommendations issued by the Independent Inquiry Commission for Vega mission VV17, organized by Arianespace and ESA and implemented by Avio.
On Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 10:50 pm local time (01:50 UTC on Thursday, April 29), a Vega launch vehicle operated by Arianespace lifted off successfully from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America). This mission marked Vega’s return to flight, and was also the second successful launch by Arianespace’s teams in less than 72 hours.
The mission’s primary purpose was orbiting Pleiades Neo 3, the first of four satellites in an advanced Earth observation constellation. Pleiades Neo 3 was wholly funded and manufactured by its operator, Airbus.
Arianespace’s 18th Vega mission also deployed several small satellites using its innovative rideshare service SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service). These auxiliary payloads included an observation microsatellite for the Norwegian space agency, Norsat-3, and four cubesats, for the operators Eutelsat, NanoAvionics/Aurora Insight and Spire. The SSMS rideshare service, developed with the support of the European space industry, was first deployed by Arianespace in September 2020. Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), Arianespace’s SSMS service will soon be joined by the Multiple Launch Service (MLS), a similar offering that uses the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. With these two services, Arianespace can offer a wide range of affordable launch opportunities for small satellites and constellations.
“I would like to congratulate everybody involved at Arianespace, ESA and Avio for successfully returning Vega to flight,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “I am especially proud of our teams who were able to carry out two launches, on two different continents, in less than 72 hours – kudos!”
The production of the Vega launcher and preparations for mission VV18 were handled by Avio, industrial prime contractor for the Vega launcher, under the direction of Arianespace and ESA. They followed all recommendations issued by the Independent Inquiry Commission set up after the failure of the 17th Vega mission (VV17).
VV18 is the third Arianespace mission of 2021, following two successful Soyuz launches, on March 25 and April 26, from the Vostochny launch base in Russia.
Vega is a new-generation light launcher, perfectly suited to both commercial and government payloads. Because of its high performance and versatility, Arianespace provides the best possible launch solution for small and medium spacecraft headed into a wide range of orbits (Sun-synchronous, ballistic, transfer to the Lagrange point L1, etc.), for Earth observation, science, education, defense and other applications. With Vega C, Arianespace will offer enhanced performance and greater payload volume for future customers at the same price as for launches by Vega.
Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 800 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from the launch site in French Guiana (South America) and the Russian cosmodromes in Baikonur and Vostochny. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.