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Vega-C is based on the existing Vega launch vehicle. It comprises four stages: three solid propellant stages, an upper fourth stage powered by a reignitable liquid-propellant engine, and a payload fairing.
The ogive-shaped fairing at the top of Vega-C is 3 m in diameter and over 9 m tall. Made of carbon fibre-polymer composite and ‘cured’ in an industrial oven, this structure protects satellites from the thermal, acoustic, and aerodynamic stresses at liftoff and on the ascent to space.
The AVUM+, or Attitude Vernier Upper Module, ensures attitude control and precise orbital positioning and is designed for extended stays in space. It has a propellant mass of 0.74 t and the main engine will provide an average thrust of 2.45 kN. The AVUM+ allows Vega-C to reach a range of orbits to deliver multiple payloads on a single mission. Thrusters will typically burn one, two or more times to reach the required orbits. After separation of the payload(s), there will be a final burn to deorbit the upper stage, to mitigate space debris.
The third stage Zefiro-9, derived from Vega, burns 10 t of solid propellant.
The second stage powered by the new Zefiro-40 (Z40) motor contains about 36 t of solid propellant, providing an average thrust of 1100 kN.
The first stage P120C motor is one of the largest monolithic carbon-fibre solid-propellant rocket motors ever built in one piece. Its development relies on new technologies derived from those of P80, the current first stage motor of Vega, to provide a significant increase in thrust at liftoff. The P120C will also be used as the side boosters on the Ariane 6 rocket, creating an opportunity for Europe to scale up production by using it on two launch vehicles in parallel.