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 European global navigation system Galileo, that in the past has been plagued with delays, has moved two small steps closer to it’s initial goal. The European Space Agency (ESA) this Friday launched the first two, of four operational satellites, designed to validate the Galileo concept in both space and on Earth. The launch was made from Kourou, French Guiana, with a Russian Soyuz rocket, that deployed the first two satellites at an altitude of nearly 23 000 km. The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) planes at 23 222 km altitude above the Earth, and at an inclination of the orbital planes of 56 degrees to the equator.
The initial plans for the Galileo system was to be up and operational by 2014, but several delays and increased budget costs have now moved the end date well beyond that. The first Galileo satellite was planned to be launched at the end of December 2005, followed by a second in 2006. Now 6 years later these first two satellites are finally been delivered in orbit, and two more will follow in 2012 if everything now goes to plan. The European Commission is now looking to complete the 30-satellite constellation by the year 2019, with two new satellites scheduled to launch during every quarter.
NASA‘s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in late September or early October 2011, almost six years after the end of a productive scientific life.
It is too early to say exactly when UARS will re-enter and what geographic area may be affected, but NASA is watching the satellite closely. Currently it could land anywhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator – most of the populated world. NASA say the risk to public safety or property is extremely small, approximately just 1 in 3,200.