ESA’s new, small launcher will carry nine satellites into orbit on its very first flight: Italian space agency’s LARES and ALMASat-1 with seven CubeSats from European universities.
The very first Vega will lift off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to release nine satellites into orbit and add a new capability to Europe’s fleet of launch systems.
The first mission, designated VV01, is scheduled for liftoff during a two-hour launch window during 10:00–12:00 GMT (11:00–13:00 CET; 07:00–09:00 local time)
This first flight marks the culmination of nine years of development by ESA and its partners, the Italian space agency (ASI) and ELV SpA, the prime contractor for developing the vehicle.
This programme was supported by seven ESA member states: Belgium, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Designed to provide Europe with a safe, reliable, competitive and efficient launch capacity for scientific and Earth observation payloads, Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers.
This new capacity will complement the family of launch services already available from French Guiana: the Ariane 5 heavy-lift vehicle and the Soyuz medium-class launcher, introduced October 2011.
Vega set for its inaugural flight (ESA, 3 February 2012)