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ESA's Zefiro success points way to Vega 2009 first flight

On 23 October the European Launch Vehicle Vega rocket's third-stage motor Zefiro 9-A completed its penultimate 120s firing test in Sardinia. Vega has three solid motor stages and a fourth liquid propellant upper module. It will launch 1,500kg (3,300lb) to 700km (434 miles) polar orbits from its French Guiana spaceport.

At 3.17m (10.3ft) long with 10,500kg of propellant, in operation the Z9-A will deliver 71,900lb thrust (320kN) in a vacuum. A final Z9-A qualification firing is planned for February 2009. With a new nozzle and optimised propellant loading the Z9-A is an enhanced version of the Z-9 motor that failed in 2007. Vega's P80 first-stage and Z23 second-stage motors have already completed their qualification tests. The rocket's maiden flight is scheduled for late 2009.

ESA Vega rocket test fire ESA
 © ESA

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