Vega launch vehicle modal characterisation test successfully completed
The modal characterisation test for Vega - ESA's new, small launcher - has been successfully completed at the premises of IAB GmbH in Ottobrunn, Germany.
The goal of the Modal Characterisation Test (MOCO) was to obtain the launch vehicle's modal parameters, in order to improve the robustness of the data (bending mode frequencies, shape and damping) used in the design of the guidance and control algorithms.
The MOCO test specimen consisted of a structural model of the launcher and payload, without its first stage and payload fairing. Its total height was 16.3 meters, with a mass of 40 tonnes. The model was rigidly mounted on the test site's 800 tonne seismic mass.
“We had to organise the test campaign, manage the logistics to obtain all the elements from several places in Europe and assemble, here in Munich, three-quarters of the Vega launcher for the first time. It was really challenging, but we managed to make it in two months,” said Raffaele di Stefano (ELV), the AIT manager for the MOCO test.
The test technical responsible, J. L. Leofanti (ELV) - reviewing the test execution and results - said: “when we reached the structural resonance, with the launcher moving several centimetres at the tip, our minds were completely concentrated on the test results, but at the same time we felt a great satisfaction with the job done.”
Vega is a single body launcher composed of three solid propellant stages and a liquid propellant upper module. It is approximately 30 metres high, with a total mass of 137 tonnes at lift-off. Vega will be able to launch satellites of up to 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit, and it will be usable for a wide range of scientific and Earth observation missions. The maiden flight is scheduled to take place towards the end of 2008.
The Vega launcher is being developed with the support of seven ESA Member States (Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden). ESA has contracted the development activities of the launcher to ELV SpA, a joint venture between Avio SpA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).