Europe’s light rocket programme has been given a Paris air show boost, with launch contracts announced for Vega and its in-development heavier iteration, Vega C.
The Vega C deal – for two flights from mid-2020 – opens the order book for the variant. The missions will demonstrate its multiple-payload capability, with each launch orbiting two of Airbus Defence & Space’s new very-high-resolution Earth observation (EO) satellites.
For Vega, the launcher’s 20th flight will orbit another EO payload, for the Italian Space Agency in 2018: a multi-spectral EO satellite, PRISMA (PRecursore IperSpettrale della Missione Applicativa), built by OHB Italia with Leonardo payloads. Vega has flown nine perfect missions since its maiden outing in 2012. Its tenth flight – carrying two EO satellites to different orbits – is scheduled for this summer.
And, with another two flights to geostationary orbit booked for its Ariane 5 heavy lifter, the Arianespace orderbook now stands at €4.8 billion ($5.3 billion), with 53 launches for 28 customers: 18 using Ariane 5, 25 for the mid-weight Soyuz and 10 for Vega/Vega C.
Vega C will be ready to fly in 2020. On the eve of Le Bourget, Avio – a partner in prime contractor ELV – completed operational testing of the first of its P120C solid fuel motors. One of the biggest monolithic carbon fibre structures built, the P120C will double as the boosters for Ariane 6, being readied for flight from 2020.