Liftoff of Vega VV01
VV01 liftoff

Main Data Vega
Height 30 m
Diameter 3 m
Liftoff mass 137 tonnes
Payload mass* 1500 kg


Although there is a growing tendency for satellites to become larger, there is still a need for a small launcher to place 300–2000 kg satellites, economically, into the polar and low-Earth orbits used for many scientific and Earth observation missions.

Europe’s answer to these needs is Vega, named after the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere. Vega will make access to space easier, quicker and cheaper.

Costs are being kept to a minimum by using advanced low-cost technologies and by introducing an optimised synergy with existing production facilities used for Ariane launchers.

Vega is a single-body launcher with three solid-propellant stages and a liquid-propellant upper module for attitude and orbit control, and satellite release. Unlike most small launchers, Vega is able to place multiple payloads into orbit.

Development of the launcher started in 1998. The first Vega lifted off on 13 February 2012 on a flawless qualification flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, where the Ariane 1 launch facilities have been adapted for its use.

Vega’s second launch

The second Vega launch took place on 7 May 2013 from French Guiana. It marks the transition into commercial exploitation while still completing its qualification. This launcher with increased capabilities and flexibility is designed to meet the demands of the launchers market.

Proba-V on Vespa adapter

The extended capabilities of Vega beyond the mission that was performed in the VV01 qualification flight have been made possible in part by the addition of Vespa (VEga Secondary Payload Adapter). Vespa allows for multiple payloads and their deployment into different orbits.

Compared to the first Vega launch, with VV02 there was a change in both inclination and orbit for the satellites. This is a complex procedure and resulted in a much longer mission – at 160 minutes it is more than double that of VV01.

Proba-V was the first payload released by Vespa into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit at 820 km altitude and an inclination of 98.73°. At this point, the Vespa adapter separated and Vega then, through a series of five burns and coasts, moved into a second orbit at 668 km altitude and an inclination of 98.13° for the second deployment of the two remaining payloads. 

A final burn will deorbit the upper stage to ensure that it does not remain as a debris threat. 

In addition to the Vespa adapter, this second Vega launcher also has new flight software.

To receive telemetry during the early phase of the flight, a new ground station has been built in the north of French Guiana. 

This was the first Vega launch operated by Arianespace on behalf of ESA, although ESA still remains responsible for the mission.

* Launch in circular orbit, 90°inclination, 700 km

Last update: 10 May 2013

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