The European Space Agency’s new light launch vehicle, called Vega, has successfully performed its first flight.
The first Vega lifted off at 10:00 GMT on Monday 13 February from a new launch pad at Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and conducted a flawless qualification flight, said ESA.
Designed to provide Europe with a competitive and efficient launch capacity for scientific and Earth observation payloads, Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300kg to 2500kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers.
This 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.
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 in October 2011.
The combination of these three systems operating from French Guiana will also improve the efficiency of Europe’s launch infrastructure by sharing its operating costs over a larger number of launches.
“In a little more than three months, Europe has increased the number of launchers it operates from one to three, widening significantly the range of launch services offered by the European operator Arianespace,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of ESA. “There is no longer one single European satellite that cannot be launched by a European launcher service.”