A joint ESA-ASI event was held at ESA/ESRIN to watch Vega's qualification flight on 13 February. The first Vega lifted off at 11:00 CET from the new launch pad at Europe's Spaceport, and conducted a flawless qualification flight.
The event at ESRIN was opened by Volker Liebig, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes and Head of ESRIN, followed by speakers from ASI, Arianespace and ESA. A discussion panel, moderated by Gigi Donelli, scientific journalist, with the participation of ESA-ASI and participating industry representatives from AVIO, ELV, Vitrociset, CGS, Selex-Galileo and Telespazio, explained the roles of the respective agencies and industries in the VEGA programme.
The mission was intended to qualify the overall Vega system, including the vehicle itself, its launch infrastructure and the operations, from the launch campaign to the payload separation and safe disposal of the upper stage. This first 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.
The development of the launch system, including the launch vehicle and ground segment, is managed at ESRIN by an integrated project team that also includes staff of ASI and the French space agency (CNES).
The payload comprised two Italian satellites – ASI’s LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna’s ALMASat-1 – as well as seven picosatellites provided by European universities: e-St@r (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).