Vega Launch Set for September 1 – Will Deploy 53 Satellites in Proof-of-Concept Mission

Vega VV16 With SSMS Launch

Artist’s view of Vega VV16 with the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser and SAT-AIS. Visible are the Zefiro-9 upper stage, the Attitude Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) and the SSMS dispenser with its payload of satellites. Credit: ESA – J. Huart

A new launch date of September 1, 2020, has been announced by Arianespace for Vega flight VV16.

Due to the persistence of exceptionally unfavorable winds at altitude over Europe’s Spaceport, Vega flight VV16, originally scheduled for 18 June 2020, was postponed, despite full availability of the launcher and the 53 satellites on this Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) mission.

In the interim period, the batteries of the Vega launch vehicle and the satellites have been recharged, under all the required safety conditions.

Vega VV16 with SSMS and SAT-AIS

Artist’s view of Vega VV16 with the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser and SAT-AIS.
Visible are the Zefiro-9 upper stage, the Attitude Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) and the SSMS dispenser with its payload of satellites. Credit: ESA – J. Huart

On September 1, Vega will lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana carrying 53 satellites on its new dispenser called the Small Spacecraft Mission Service, or SSMS.

This is a proof-of-concept flight to demonstrate and validate a new rideshare launch service for small satellites. Developed by ESA, the SSMS dispenser is lightweight and has a modular design that can be configured to meet the requirements of the mission, securing anything from the smallest 1 kg CubeSats up to 500 kg minisatellites.

This new service is intended to grow space technologies in Europe by making it easier for those with light satellites to find convenient launch opportunities. Those riding together share the cost of launch, making it more affordable too. This flight is partly funded by the European Union under the EU’s Horizon 2020 program.

Vega will release its 53 satellites progressively in a coordinated sequence in a Sun-synchronous orbit about 500 km above Earth. ESA has contributed to the development of four payloads on board – the 113 kg ESAIL microsatellite and three CubeSats: Simba, PICASSO and FSSCat which carries pioneering AI technology named Φ-sat-1.

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