The Vega Small Launcher Development programme and the P80 Advanced Solid Propulsion Stage Demonstrator programme were formally approved on 15 December by the participating States.
Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland (Spain's decision still pending) have decided to proceed with full development of the Vega small launcher. Developed and manufactured by European industry, Vega will complete the range of European launch services and offer the international market a competitive vehicle for small payloads of up to 1500 kg (polar earth orbit missions at 700 km).
Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands have decided to finance the P80 advanced solid propulsion stage demonstrator. This development programme is designed to meet two objectives:
- * demonstrate most of the technologies required to improve Ariane 5 solid-propellant booster performance and competitiveness,
- * develop and ground-qualify an advanced-technology first stage for the Vega launcher.
The development milestones for the P80 are consistent with the schedule for developing Vega, whose maiden flight is planned in end-2005.
15 December also marks a major milestone in the development of the Zefiro solid rocket motor, which will serve as second stage for the Vega launcher. The motor successfully completed its third static firing by Fiat Avio on the teststand at Salto di Quirra, Sardinia. Two further test firings are planned, in order to qualify the motor in its final configuration as Vega's second stage.
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