At the 4th of October the first elements of Europe’s new Vega launch vehicle left Italy and began a long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. This marked the final step towards it’s inaugural flight in January 2012. After several intense weeks of checking the hardware and equipment, the Vega’s Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9 motors and the AVUM fourth stage were carefully packed and left Avio’s facility in Colleferro, where they were built. The equipment was then loaded onto the MN Colibri, in preparation for its its journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
The equipment for the qualification launcher arrived at the Dégrad de Cannes Harbour in Cayenne, French Guiana, and was then taken by road to Kourou where it arrived at the 24 of October. The launch campaign will then start on 7 November 2011 with the transfer of the first stage to the launch pad. The first launch for the Vega launcher is scheduled for the end of January 2012.
The three-month launch campaign will begin in at beginning of November, after the Flight Readiness Review that occured on 13 – 14 October. The first step will move the P80 solid-propellant motor to the pad for final testing of the thrust vector control system. The campaign will then continue with the integration of the AVUM (Attitude & Vernier Upper Module), and its fuelling, and further testing of the electrical systems and software controls. Finally, the upper composite, comprising the fairing and the payload, will be mated with AVUM.
The payload for Vega’s first launch is the LARES satellite, together with nine small CubeSats from European universities. ESA, CNES, ASI and industry teams will arrive at Europe’s Spaceport for the launch campaign in November. “With all of the elements for Vega’s maiden flight in Kourou by mid-October, we are now looking forward to beginning the launch campaign, which will be the final step before the first flight of Europe’s new rocket” says Stefano Bianchi, Vega Programme Manager.
Vega is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations in order to respond to different market opportunities. It can handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites, with a total payload mass ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg. This depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.