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N° 2–2012: Vega set for its inaugural flight

2 February 2012

On 13 February, the European Space Agency will perform the first qualification flight of its brand new Vega launch vehicle.

The very first Vega will lift off from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to release nine satellites into orbit and add a new capability to Europe's fleet of launch systems.

The first mission, designated VV01, is scheduled for liftoff during a two-hour launch window during 10:00-12:00 GMT (11:00-13:00 CET; 07:00-09:00 local time)

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.

This programme was supported by seven ESA member states: Belgium, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Designed to provide Europe with a safe, reliable, competitive and efficient launch capacity for scientific and Earth observation payloads, Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers.

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 October 2011.

The payload consists of two Italian satellites - ASI's LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna's ALMASat-1 - as well as seven nanosatellites provided by European universities: e-St@r (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).

The mission is 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.

Following this qualification flight, the Vega launch system will be handed over to Arianespace to operate. The company will also be in charge of offering this new launch capacity on the international market, with the goal of at least two missions per year. ESA will be an early customer of Arianespace's new service through a commitment for five launches.

For more information about Vega and the VV01 mission, please visit: www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Vega/

Note for Editors

The launch will be available live on www.esa.int

Attending background briefings and launch events

A series of pre-launch press briefings will focus on the contribution from national industry. Launch events will also be organised at the main ESA establishments. The events will centre on the video transmission of the launch, with experts available to provide information.

In Italy, the main launch event will be an ESA ASI joint event at ESA's ESRIN establishment near Rome. More information about the launch event is at: http://www.esa.int/esaCP/Italy.html

In France, a pre-launch media encounter will be held in cooperation with the national space agency, CNES, and a launch event will be held at ESA's Headquarters in Paris. More information is at: http://www.esa.int/esaCP/France.html

In the Netherlands, a press conference held in partnership with the Netherlands Space Office and Dutch Space is scheduled for 7 February, 10:00 CET. A launch event will be held at ESA's ESTEC establishment in Noordwijk. More information is at:
http://www.esa.int/esaCP/Netherlands.html

In Spain, a Vega information day and press conference day is scheduled for 8 February, 11:00 CET. A launch event will also be held at ESA's ESAC establishment in Villanueva de la Cañada, near Madrid. More information is at: http://www.esa.int/esaCP/Spain.html

Material for online news sites

The launch video transmission will be available as an embeddable livestream at: http://www.livestream.com/eurospaceagency
Online media outlets can find background videos at the following sites:
- ESA online video archive: http://multimedia.esa.int/
- Broadcast standard (MPEG 2) on the FTP server at: http://television.esa.int/default.cfm

Still images

The latest high-resolution still images can be found at the following sites:
- Multi-Media Gallery: http://www.esa.int/esa-mmg/mmghome.pl
- ESA's Photo Library for Professionals: http://www.esa-photolibrary.com

Media image queries can be directed to esa.photolibrary@esa.int

Material for broadcasters

Leading up to launch day, ESA TV will be providing broadcasters with a series of video news releases and B-rolls featuring background material, the facilities, and the campaign so far. The launch will be transmitted live from Kourou via satellite. All details can be found on ESA TV's site at: http://television.esa.int

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Office
Communication Department
Tel: + 33 1 53 69 72 99
Fax: + 33 1 53 69 76 90
Email: media@esa.int


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