Europe’s Vega light launcher lifted off late Monday with the European Space Agency’s Proba-V Earth-observation satellite and smaller spacecraft for Vietnam and Estonia, overcoming a weather delay at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana to go two-for-two in successful launches.
Liftoff into a 1-sec. window came at 11:06 p.m. local time (10:06 p.m. EDT) Monday, following a weather scrub at the same time on May 3.
The Vega, designed to launch small payloads in the 1,500-kg-class to an altitude of 700 km in low Earth or Sun-synchronous orbits, carried the 138-kg Proba-V, the fourth in ESA’s Proba series of spacecraft, built by QinetiQ Space of Belgium.
Its primary mission will be providing daily overviews of global vegetation growth using a version of the vegetation instrument currently flying on the French Spot-4 and Spot-5 Earth observation spacecraft. Proba-V cost €50 million to develop, and was led by Belgium with co-financing from Canada and Luxembourg. It is scheduled to gather data from a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 820 km inclined at 98.73 deg. over the next 2 1/2-5 years.
Also on board were VNREDSat-1, a 120-kg climate-monitoring satellite built for the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology by EADS-Astrium. Developed with €55.8 million ($73 million) in French government financing and $3 million from Vietnam, VNREDSat-1 is the Vega rocket’s first commercial payload. It is designed to observe changes in climate and take measurements that could help meteorologists predict natural disasters during its five-year design life in Sun-synchronous orbit.
Estonia’s first satellite, ESTCube-1, rounded out the payload suite. The 1.05-kg, 10-sq.-cm. cubesat was built by the National University of Tartu in Estonia as a one-year technology demonstration designed to measure and test loads that could be applied to electric solar sails.
Designed to launch small payloads in the 1,500-kg-class to an altitude of 700 km in low Earth or Sun-synchronous orbit, the four-stage Vega is led by prime contractor ELV, a joint venture of Avio and the Italian Space Agency ASI. The rocket’s development was co-financed by France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.