Italian space propulsion specialist Avio turned up at Le Bourget with stars in its eyes – having completed testing of the first rocket engine casing destined for Europe’s Vega C light launcher.
The composite P120C engine will be the main powerplant for the Vega C from 2019 and serve as the solid fuel boosters for its big brother, Ariane 6, from 2020. Both launchers are iterations of successful designs, Vega and Ariane 5, but by sharing components, mark a move into modular construction – to slash costs and speed up launch campaigns.
P120C – 120cm (47in) in diameter – is the world’s largest monolithic carbonfibre solid propellant motor. Vega C will, with a new solid second stage and liquid-fuelled upper stage, add 50% to the payload potential of the current Vega.
Meanwhile, Avio is also developing a new, all-European upper stage for a heavier Vega E variant set to fly from 2024.
At Paris, Avio is showing models of all three members of the Vega family, and its multiple-payload launch dispenser, which will fly next year. With single or multiple payload capacities of up to 2t or more to low-Earth orbit, the Vegas are ideally suited to the burgeoning market for civil Earth observation satellites.
Vega’s next flight – its 10th – is scheduled for July.