The fifth flight of Arianespace Vega continued the track record of success with this light-lift launcher, orbiting the Sentinel-2A satellite for Europe’s Copernicus Earth observation program. Departing the Kourou European spaceport June 22, Vega deployed its 1,140-kg.-class passenger after a mission lasting just under 55 minutes. Sentinel-2A was built by Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor, and is designed to operate from a Sun-synchronous orbit to deliver high-resolution and multispectral capabilities across a 290-km.-wide coverage path and with frequent revisits.
This spacecraft will join Sentinel-1A, a radar satellite orbited by an Arianespace Soyuz mission in April 2014 – which also is part of the ambitious Copernicus initiative headed by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency.
“Many thanks for enabling Arianespace to be part of a program as exciting as Copernicus, fully in line with our mission to help build a safer world and improve life on Earth through satellite services,” said Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël. “We are only five months away from COP 21 [the climate change Conference of Parties meeting], and we could not dream of a better opportunity than this launch to place the emphasis on our contribution to environmental monitoring and protection, as well as to meteorology and navigation.” He added that Sentinel-2A marked the 46th spacecraft orbited by Arianespace for such applications, and was the 112th satellite the company has lofted that was manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space.
Israël noted this latest Vega success – designated Flight VV05 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system – confirms its operational capabilities and positions the Italian-led vehicle to perform three missions in 2015, meeting Vega’s planned launch pace ramp-up.
Flight VV05 comes after Vega Flight VV04 in February with Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) reentry test vehicle, and will be followed before year-end by a mission to launch LISA Pathfinder – a European spacecraft to validate the concept of low-frequency gravitational wave detection.
“Vega is keeping up with its promises, and the most demanding customers are not mistaking them: Vega’s backlog has now reached 10 launches, six of them being for the benefit of export customers in the field of Earth observation,” Israël added. “So, let me thank again our prime contractor, ELV, a company jointly owned by Avio and the Italian Space Agency ASI, for delivering such a fine product – symbol of the Italian excellence in the field of launch vehicles. And congratulations to Coleferro’s teams in Italy!”
Arianespace is maintaining the operational pace with its entire vehicle family – consisting of Vega, along with the medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5 – in a cadence that is vital to the company’s competiveness in an evolving and challenging launch services marketplace, according to Israël.