As of 7AM (10:00 GMT), the European Space Agency’s new Vega rocket has successfully launched on Monday, February 13th from Kourou, French Guyana, off the northern coast of South America. While Vega isn’t gigantic, it promises to be twice as effective as similar-sized rockets. The maiden voyage includes 9 satellites to deliver into orbit, including LARES, the frame-dragging measurement satellite.
Vega, which takes its name after the second-brightest star in the northern hemisphere, is comprised of a booster that stands about 100 feet (30 m) and 10 feet (3 m) wide. Its total weight is of 137 tonnes at liftoff and it has four stages, three solid-propellant stages and a fourth stage, dubbed AVUM that carries the payload.
Vega is designed to complement the existing medium-sized Soyuz rockets, and the larger Ariane 5 boosters. These types of boosters are used for scientific and Earth-observation missions. Vega’s total payload can reach up to 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg).
The nine included satellites are the above-mentioned LARES, ALMASat-1 – a microsatellite that will test how this system will perform on future missions, and CubeSats – of which there are seven that are actually nanosatellites (2.2 lbs, 1kg) developed by 250 university students from 6 different countries over the last four years.
The CubeSats include Xatcobeo, which is on a mission to demonstrate software-defined and solar panel deployment, Robusta, which is going to test and evaluate the low level effects of radiation on transistors, [email protected], a demonstration of an active three-axis attitude determination and control system, Goliat, which will image Earth using digital cameras, PW-Sat, testing atmospheric drag augmentation, MaSat-1, which will demonstrate various spacecraft avionics and UniCubeSat GG, which will study gravity gradients.