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The Well-Built Italian
by Launchspace Staff
Bethesda MD (SPX) May 02, 2013

The first VEGA launch about 14 months ago carried several small satellites to low Earth orbits.

The name "VEGA" is an acronym for Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata, which translates to "Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket." VEGA is a new, expendable space launch vehicle now in use by Arianespace and launched from the Guiana Space Centre located in Kourou, French Guiana.

This vehicle is an Italian creation that was jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency (ISA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Although the concept began as a pure Italian venture, serious development started in 1998 after ISA and ESA joined forces. The first VEGA launch took place on February 13, 2012.

The design provides for payloads in the range of 300 to 2,500 kg. This satisfies many satellite applications such as scientific experiments and Earth observation missions. Orbital destination options include polar and other low Earth orbits. The reference VEGA mission is placing a 1,500-kg satellite into a 700-km polar orbit.

VEGA consists of three solid rocket stages: P80 first stage; Zefiro 23 second stage; Zefiro 9 third stage. In addition, there is a liquid rocket upper module called AVUM (Attitude Vernier Upper Module).

This module consists of a propulsion unit and an avionics package. AVUM uses the Ukrainian RD-869 rocket engine which burns pressure-fed UDMH and nitrogen tetroxide.

The first VEGA launch about 14 months ago carried several small satellites to low Earth orbits. The second launch (VV02), scheduled for this week, will demonstrate extended capabilities partially due to the addition of the VESPA (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter). This will allow the release of three satellites into two different orbits.

Proba-V is the prime payload on VV02 and is the first of four ESA missions that will use Vega. This satellite carries a reduced version of the Vegetation camera currently flying on the Spot satellites to provide a daily overview of global vegetation growth.

The other two payloads are the Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment and Disaster Monitoring Satellite (VNRedsat) and ESTCube-1, a test of advanced solar sail technologies

VV02 will attempt to change both the inclinations and the orbital altitudes for the satellites. This complex procedure will require a much longer mission battery life for the VEGA, more than double that of the first flight. In addition, a final burn will deorbit the upper stage to avoid any space debris issues.


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