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Enabling & Support

N° 11–2003: Signature of contracts for full development of Vega small launcher and P80 advanced solid propulsion stage and demonstrator

25 February 2003

Today ESA signed a contract with the ELV company for completion of the development phase of the Vega European small launcher programme, and CNES signed, on behalf of ESA, a contract with FiatAvio for development of the P80 advanced solid propulsion stage and demonstrator.


The contracts were signed in Colleferro (Rome), on the FiatAvio industrial park, in the presence of representatives of the Italian Government, ESA, ASI, Arianespace, CNES and ELV.

Step 1 of the Vega small launcher programme was decided by the ESA Council in June 1998. Funding for both the Vega and P80 programmes was approved by the participating states in December 2000.

Italy is the leading contributor to the Vega programme with 65 %, other participants being Belgium (5.63%), France (12.43%), the Netherlands (3.5%), Spain (5%), Sweden (0.8%) and Switzerland (1.34%). Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands are also contributing to the P80 programme.

ELV is the prime contractor for the Vega launcher. Its shareholders are FiatAvio (70%) and the Italian space agency, ASI (30%). FiatAvio is the prime contractor for the P80.

The Vega small launcher configuration consists of 3 solid stages: the P80 first stage, the Zefiro 23 second stage, the Zefiro 9 third stage and an upper liquid propulsion module, called AVUM.

Vega’s target lift capability is 1500 kg and it will inject its payload into a circular orbit at 700 km altitude. The launch base to be used for Vega is the European Spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana.

Arianespace will be the commercial operator for Vega. The first qualification launch is planned for mid-2006, with an expected frequency of 3 to 4 launches a year.

The P80 has twofold objectives: to serve as the first stage of the launcher and to develop new technologies for the future A5 solid booster.

An integrated project team (IPT), comprising staff from ESA and the Italian and French space agencies (ASI and CNES), will manage the Vega launcher contract and ensure overall system coherence. It is to be located at the ESA establishment near Rome, ESRIN.

The P80 contract will be managed, under the authority of the IPT, by CNES through a dedicated project team, including ESA and ASI staff. The P80 team is to be located at the CNES establishment in Evry, near Paris.

The values of these development contracts are: EUR 221m for the Vega launcher, and EUR 40m for the P80.

For further information, please contact :

Simonetta Cheli


Tel: +39.06.9418.0350

Fax: +39.06.9418.0352


For further information:

ESA, Media Relations Service

Tel: +33(0)

Fax: +33(0)