Announcement of opportunity for second flight of Vega small launcher in mid-2010

Vega
Artist's impression of Vega small launcher in flight
25 July 2008

On Friday 25 July, ESA announced an opportunity to embark payloads on the second flight of the Vega small launcher planned for mid 2010. This will be the first of five flights that are planned to demonstrate Vega’s versatility to the space community.

Vega is ESA’s new, small launcher, composed of three solid propellant stages and a bipropellant, liquid-fuelled upper stage. Development started at the end of 2000 and the Vega launch system is now in its qualification phase.

The Vega qualification flight is planned for November 2009. A few months later, once the flight data has been analysed, a flight qualification review will be conducted.

Vega research and technology accompaniment programme

The VEga Research and Technology Accompaniment (VERTA) programme started in 2006 and has three main components:

  • the procurement of five launches (VERTA flights)
  • a Customer Service Improvement (CSI) programme
  • production accompaniment and technological activities

The objective of the VERTA flights is to demonstrate to the space community the flexibility of Vega launch system. These launches will carry several ESA missions such as ADM-Aeolus, Swarm, LISA Pathfinder and Proba-3.

The main activity of the CSI programme is the development of the multiple-payload launch capability for Vega.

The Vega exploitation phase will start with the five VERTA flights, from early 2010. Arianespace will operate the Vega launch system from the European Spaceport in Kourou (Centre Spatial Guyanais – CSG), as an addition to the existing launcher fleet of Ariane 5 and Soyuz, providing the necessary capabilities and flexibility to cover all customers’ needs.

ESA and Arianespace are cooperating to implement the VERTA 1 flight, starting with this Announcement of Opportunity.

Announcement of Opportunity

The objective of this Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is to commence the payload selection process for the VERTA 1 flight (Vega second flight). The selection process is organised in two phases, this international AO, followed by a Call for Proposal (CFP).

The AO is open to any private or public entity, without restriction as to nationality.

VERTA 1 mission objectives

The primary objective of the VERTA 1 mission is to demonstrate the multiple-payload capability of the Vega launch system.

The orbit currently under consideration for the mission is a low-Earth, Sun-synchronous orbit in the 500–800 km altitude range. The selection of the target orbit will be made by ESA on the basis of the results of this AO and the best technical and economic compromise.

The following spacecraft accommodation possibilities are currently under consideration and will be adapted depending on the results of this AO:

  • two spacecraft, each with a mass in the range 300–500 kg
  • one 300–500 kg spacecraft and several 100–150 kg spacecraft
  • multiple spacecraft with masses in the 100–150 kg range

In addition, the VERTA 1 mission will provide a flight opportunity for a number of very small educational spacecraft that will be the subject of an AO from ESA’s Education Office.

“Vega is now entering a new and exciting phase by offering this flight opportunity to the space community. I'm convinced that the service Vega has to offer will fulfil the expectations of users worldwide,” said Stefano Bianchi, the head of the Vega programme.

The Announcement of Opportunity document can be downloaded here. Responses are due by 30 September 2008.

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