With Vega, Arianespace successfully performs the first European mission to launch multiple small satellites
Arianespace has realised the first European “rideshare” mission for small satellites, with 53 satellites onboard the Vega launcher for 21 customers.
With this new SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service) shared launch concept, Arianespace demonstrates its ability to respond – in an innovative and competitive manner – to institutional and commercial requirements of the growing market for small satellites.
This 16th Vega mission (Flight VV16) also was the return-to-flight for the light-lift launcher, which logged its 15th success.
On Tuesday, September 2 at 10:51 p.m. local time in Kourou, French Guiana (UTC-3), Arianespace’s light-lift Vega launcher performed its 15th successful mission, marking its return to flight.
“With Vega’s successful return to flight, we are delighted to have served 21 customers from 13 different countries,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “These satellites will serve a variety of different applications, including Earth observation, the battle against climate change, telecommunications, the Internet of Things, science, as well as education. With this shared launch, space becomes accessible to everyone, including research labs, universities and startups. ‘Bravo’ to the European space team, which has worked from start to finish in adding this new service to Arianespace’s offering, enabling this magnificent success.”
The satellites onboard VV16 are in two categories: seven primary micro-satellites with a mass of 25 to 145 kg.; and 46 nano-satellites with a mass of 250 g. to 7 kg. The first seven satellites were released between the mission’s 40th and 52nd minute, while the remaining 46 were deployed during a sequence of less than three minutes, occurring 1 hour, 42 minutes after liftoff.
Among these 53 satellites, certain spacecraft will be dedicated to Earth observation, with innovative projects such as GHGSAT-C1, a Canadian satellite at the service of air quality; or ION Satellite Carrier Lucas for the Planet company. OSM-1 CICERO is the first satellite from Orbital Solutions Monaco, a Monegasque start-up; while ESAIL is the first commercial microsatellite developed under the European Space Agency’s SAT-AIS program for tracking ships. Several experimental satellites also were on board Vega, such as TARS from the Kepler company, which is dedicated to the Internet of Things; as well as the 14 satellites from Swarm Technology, an American start-up whose mission is the use of artificial intelligence in robots and computers.
With the demonstration of its new SSMS service, Arianespace is strengthening its position in the growing market for small satellites. This service will soon be supplemented by the MLS (Multi Launch Service) – a similar offer available on Ariane 6, allowing Arianespace to increase the number of affordable launch opportunities for small satellites and constellations.
Proposed for the first time by Arianespace, the SSMS is a European project supported by Europe’s space team. Benefiting from European Space Agency (ESA) funding, the SSMS structure was developed by Avio, located in Colleferro, Italy – which is the Vega launcher’s industrial prime contractor – and manufactured by the Czech company SAB Aerospace. The European Union also contributed to the funding of this demonstration flight in the Horizon 2020 program’s framework.
As a new-generation light-lift launcher, Vega is perfectly suited to the requirements of the institutional and commercial market. Its performance and versatility enable Arianespace to offer the best possible solutions for putting small to medium-sized payloads into orbit for a wide range of missions: Sun-synchronous low orbit missions (such as Sentinel-2A), ballistic missions (the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle/IXV, as an example), missions in transfer orbit to the Lagrange Point L1 (LISA Pathfinder), and for numerous applications (Earth observation, science, education, defense). With Vega C, Arianespace will offer increased performance and volume under the payload fairing for its future passengers at the same cost.
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 650 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 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.