An aryan space Rocket vega It is set for an epic return to flight as the European reinforcement prepares to bring 53 satellites into orbit tonight (June 28).
The permiing time, the Arianespace The Vega rocket will launch a great carpool mission from the Guyana space center in Kourou, French Guiana at 9:51 pm EDT (10:51 pm local time; 0151 GMT on June 29). The rocket carries satellite loads from 13 nations. You can watch the launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of Arianespace, or directly through Arianespace on YouTube.
It will be the first Vega rocket flight since a launch failure nearly a year ago. On July 10, 2019, Vega suffered a “major anomaly” that destroyed a UAE Earth observation satellite, along with the rocket. The incident was Vega’s first failure after 14 consecutive successful flights since her debut in 2012.
The planned launch for today has been delayed since June 18 due to bad weather and could be postponed again if the weather does not cooperate tonight, Arianespace said. The last launch attempt was on Saturday (June 27), when strong winds prevented the launch.
“Subject to a favorable evolution of weather conditions, another attempt will be made on Sunday, June 28”, representatives of Arianespace he said in a statement. “Vega launch vehicle and its 53 spacecraft payloads are in stable and safe condition”
Related: Vega rocket launch failure in July caused by faulty engine
This new mission will be an evolution of Vega’s capabilities. The four-stage rocket will launch a proof-of-concept flight for its Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS), which will send dozens of satellites into space for 21 clients.
The service is Arianespace’s response to a larger industry turnaround away from the launch of large and unique satellites into space. While some large satellites still launch on the company’s rockets, the demand for small satellites has grown exponentially in recent years as computers and small satellite components have become increasingly smaller and cheaper. In a mission description, Arianespace noted that the launch “would address the nano and microsatellite market sub-segment, serving institutional and business needs.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) funded the development of the SSMS hardware and (in collaboration with the European Union) the proof-of-concept flight. ESA said in a separate statement that more customers are already eager to participate in Vega’s next ride-sharing opportunity, as the large number of satellites per launch reduces individual costs for participants.
“Is [demand] It gives us great confidence that this new service will become a vital element of Vega’s launch service, “said Renato Lafranconi, manager of Vega’s exploitation program at ESA.
The large number of satellites includes 46 cubesat and seven microsatellites, deployed in a special dispenser that has two sections. The bottom section can hold up to six nanosatellites or up to a dozen slightly larger cubesat displays. The upper section is for microsatellites, mini-satellites, and small satellites. Another dispenser configuration could see a large satellite in the upper section and many satellites occupying the lower section, ESA said.
Amongst this large launch group, here are some of the payloads:
- Canadian startup GHGSat Inc., which launched its first satellite in 2016, has a new satellite mounted in Vega. Called GHGSat-C1, the satellite will monitor greenhouse gas emissions.
- The first Slovenian microsatellite, NEMO-HD, will be launched to image Earth. This satellite is for the Slovenian Center of Excellence for Space Science and Technology and was built in the Space Flight Laboratory of the Institute for Aerospace Studies at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies.
- UPMSat-2 is an educational technology demonstration microsatellite run by the research institute of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Technical University of Madrid). Its purpose is “to give students the skills to design, analyze, build, integrate, test and operate the platform,” said Arianespace.
- The ESAIL maritime monitoring satellite will be the first commercial microsatellite developed under an ESA program for ship monitoring. The satellite was built by LuxSpace of Luxembourg for a Canadian company called Exactly Earth, which operates a constellation of ship tracking satellites. Ships automatically transmit visible signals from orbit, displaying information such as a ship’s nationality and home port.
When Vega’s top reaches space, the rocket’s satellite dispenser will release the satellites in a coordinated sequence, ESA said. The satellites will be deployed in a “synchronous orbit to the sun,” an almost polar orbit that allows a satellite to pass over the same part of Earth at the same local time of day. The satellites will orbit at an altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers).
After all the satellites have been deployed, the upper stage of the rocket will push the dispenser to a safe re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, avoiding the problem of the dispenser becoming trash from dead space.
If this mission is successful, Arianespace said it plans to implement more carpooling on the upcoming Vega-C launcher, a light rocket that will eventually replace Vega. The first Vega-C test flight is expected in late 2020.
The new launcher, Arianespace said in its statement, “will offer an additional 700kg. [roughly 1,500 lbs.] capacity and expanded volume within a wider launcher fairing, at the same Vega launch cost as before. “The increased capacity will allow Vega-C to fly more satellites per launch and reduce cost per weight,” added Arianespace.
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