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Vega launcher rocket engine tests progress with Sardinian trial firing

A 71s static test firing of the Zefiro 23 solid fuel upper-stage engine for the new European Space Agency Vega launcher has been completed at the Italian Interforce test range in Sardinia. The Vega launcher will be able to loft 2.3t into low-Earth orbit and its first launch is expected in 2007.

The 26t Zefiro upper stage would ignite at 44km (27 miles), 107s into launch, finally cutting off at 100km. The Sardinian firing also tested the Zefiro nozzle’s thrust vector control (TVC), which has already undergone subsystem testing and uses electromechanical actuators attached to the nozzle.

Tests for the integration and operation of the TVC with the first stage and its P80 solid rocket motor begin in November. “The first-stage tests [with the nozzle and actuators] in November will be conducted in Kourou at the Ariane 5 booster test stands,” says ESA. Testing of the TVC with the P80’s nozzle, but not the motor, started last month. That testing is to last at least two months as the actuator and nozzle assembly repeatedly goes through the launch sequence. Design and manufacture of the TVC is being led by Europropulsion, jointly owned by Snecma Propulsion Solide and P80 prime contractor Avio.

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