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Vega rocket deploys 53 satellites on profitable return to flight mission – Spaceflight Now

A 98-foot-tall (30-meter) Vega rocket lifts off from French Guiana on Wednesday night time. Credit score: ESA/CNES/Arianespace – Photograph Optique Video du CSG – JM Guillon

Delayed a 12 months by a launch failure, the coronavirus pandemic and a stretch of stiff higher stage winds this summer time, an Italian-made Vega rocket vaulted into orbit from French Guiana on Wednesday night time and deployed 53 small satellites from 13 nations to punctuate a flawless return to flight mission.

The rideshare launch set a file for essentially the most satellites ever flown on a European rocket, and helped validate course of modifications launched to resolve the issue on the Vega’s second stage that induced a failure on the launcher’s earlier mission.

The 98-foot-tall (30-meter) rocket lit its solid-fueled first stage at 9:51:10 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0151:10 GMT Thursday), instantly boosting the Vega launcher away from the European-run Guiana Area Middle on the northern coast of South America with almost 700,000 kilos of thrust.

Heading north into a transparent late night time sky, the Vega rocket flew downrange over the Atlantic Ocean and shed its first stage round two minutes after liftoff.

The Vega’s second and third stage Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9 motors ignited to proceed the climb into orbit, adopted by 4 burns of the rocket’s liquid-fueled AVUM fourth stage to put the 53 payloads into two distinct polar orbits 320 miles (515 kilometers) and 329 miles (530 kilometers) above Earth, every tilted at an angle of about 97.5 levels to the equator.

“For Europe, it’s the very first time we’ve organized a so-called rideshare mission,” mentioned Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Avio, the Italian firm that builds a lot of the Vega rocket. “We’re very blissful for this to open up the brand new marketplace for small satellites for Europe.”

The solid-fueled Zefiro 23 second stage on Wednesday night time’s mission included enhancements designed to handle a structural deficiency that led the destruction of a Vega rocket on its earlier launch in July 2019.

The failure final 12 months induced the rocket and its payload — Falcon Eye 1 navy reconnaissance satellite tv for pc for the United Arab Emirates — to crash again to Earth within the Atlantic Ocean north of French Guiana.

Avio mentioned an unbiased investigation into the July 2019 launch failure concluded super-hot gasoline from burning stable propellant impinged on the construction of the Vega rocket’s Zefiro 23 second stage, leading to a “thermo-structural failure” on the second stage’s ahead dome.

The recent gasoline, which burns at greater than 5,000 levels Fahrenheit (Three,000 levels Celsius), broken or burned by the carbon fiber construction on the second stage. The structural failure led to the in-flight breakup of the launch car with the UAE’s Falcon Eye 1 spy satellite tv for pc.

Based on Ranzo, Avio’s CEO, investigators decided a “manufacturing anomaly” slipped by Avio’s high quality management checks.

“We had thermal safety (on the second stage) the place the thickness was maybe lower than one millimeter quick, so we had a really, very tiny deviation that was undetectable to all the standard checks,” Ranzo mentioned in March throughout an interview with Spaceflight Now.

“So what we now have carried out is we now have tremendously improved the applied sciences to permit for the manufacturing qc — utilizing not solely ultrasound but in addition digital radiography — in a a lot finer means with respect to work we used to do previously,” Ranzo mentioned.

Avio pulled from the corporate’s Zefiro 23 manufacturing line in Italy, ran it by the improved high quality management checks, and efficiently test-fired the rocket motor at a take a look at web site in Sardinia.

Ranzo mentioned Avio additionally added additional thermal insulation on the Zefiro 23 second stage motor.

“It’s most likely not essential, however we elevated the protection margin,” he mentioned in March. “So we are actually approaching the flight with a lot better consolation with respect to security.”

Engineers additionally modified components of the Vega’s telemetry, flight security and self-destruct gadgets, Ranzo mentioned.

An unbiased investigation panel issued 20 suggestions, together with 14 obligatory motion gadgets that had been applied earlier than the return to flight mission Wednesday night time.

The modifications made the Vega rocket “much more strong,” mentioned Roland Lagier, Arianespace’s chief technical officer.

The 53 spacecraft deployed by the Vega’s AVUM higher stage come from 21 clients in 13 nations, together with European Area Company member states, the USA, Canada, Argentina, Thailand and Israel.

Sized to hold small-to-medium-class payloads into orbit, the Vega rocket flew with a brand new payload lodging construction designed to permit dozens of satellites to launch on the identical mission. The modular construction will be tailored to accommodate numerous numbers of small satellites of various sizes, and Arianespace and Avio plan to make it a daily a part of their business launch service providing after Wednesday’s profitable “proof of idea” demonstration flight.

The Small Area Mission Service, or SSMS, payload dispenser that flew for the primary time Wednesday night time was collectively funded by the European Area Company and the European Fee. SAB Aerospace within the Czech Republic and Bercella in Italy designed and manufactured the dispenser.

Aggregating quite a few small payloads on a single rocket can scale back launch prices for particular person satellite tv for pc operators.

“This mission is a vital one as a result of it reveals flexibility, agility, and in addition value discount,” mentioned Jan Woerner, ESA’s director basic.

Arianespace declared success after the Vega rocket launched its 53 payloads into orbit late Wednesday.

“With Vega’s profitable return to flight, we’re delighted to have served 21 clients from 13 completely different nations,” mentioned Stéphane Israël, Arianespace’s CEO. “These satellites will serve a wide range of completely different purposes, together with Earth remark, the battle in opposition to local weather change, telecommunications, the Web of Issues, science, in addition to schooling. With this shared launch, house turns into accessible to everybody, together with analysis labs, universities and startups.”

The SSMS proof of idea flight was speculated to launch final September, however that schedule was impacted by the investigation into the Vega launch failure in July 2019. With the investigation and required reliability enhancements full, groups in French Guiana had been within the last phases of readying the Vega rocket and its payloads for launch in late March when the coronavirus pandemic pressured a suspension of launch operations on the spaceport in South America.

Work resumed in Could, and engineers hoped to launch the Vega rocket in late June. However a stretch of unacceptable higher stage winds stored the rocket grounded, and managers determined to face down and recharge batteries on the launcher and its satellites after a sequence of scrubbed launch makes an attempt.

The Vega rocket missed a launch slot in mid-August as a consequence of delays within the launch of a heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket. Arianespace known as off one other launch try Tuesday night time as a storm threatened a telemetry station in South Korea that was wanted to trace the Vega rocket after liftoff.

With the storm risk handed, Arianespace lastly proceeded with the Vega’s launch Wednesday night time.

The primary satellite tv for pc launched right into a 320-mile-high (515-kilometer) orbit by the Vega’s AVUM higher stage was Athena, a 304-pound (138-kilogram) spacecraft constructed by Maxar in California. Athena is a small experimental communications satellite tv for pc for PointView Tech, a subsidiary of Fb, that can take a look at applied sciences that might be utilized in a future constellation of small satellites to supply international broadband Web companies.

Athena is PointView Tech’s first satellite tv for pc.

The 2 decks of the SSMS rideshare construction are seen as they had been mated in preparation for launch. The Athena satellite tv for pc is seen on the high of the payload stack. Credit score: ESA – M. Pedoussaut

A 330-pound (150-kilogram) spacecraft developed by the Italian house firm D-Orbit additionally rode to house on the Vega rocket. D-Orbit’s ION Satellite tv for pc Provider is loaded with 12 SuperDove Earth-imaging CubeSats for Planet, which will likely be launched after the service craft separates from the Vega rocket’s higher stage in orbit.

Counting the 12 SuperDoves contained in the ION Satellite tv for pc Provider, the SSMS proof of idea mission is definitely launching with 65 satellites.

D-Orbit plans to develop extra succesful CubeSat carriers for future missions with propulsion techniques that might maneuver clients’ nanosatellites into completely different orbital slots after separation from their launch car. That functionality might give CubeSat operators the power to nonetheless put their spacecraft into tailor-made orbits even when launching on a rideshare flight to a barely completely different altitude or inclination.

The launch marked the primary use of D-Orbit’s InOrbit Now, or ION, service.

The biggest satellite tv for pc ever in-built Luxembourg additionally hitched a experience into orbit on the Vega launch car. Named ESAIL, the 246-pound (112-kilogram) spacecraft was developed in partnership between ESA and exactEarth, a Canadian firm with maritime monitoring sensors on greater than 60 satellites already in orbit.

ESAIL is a part of an ESA initiative known as SAT-AIS, managed inside ESA’s telecommunication program workplace, which goals to foster the event of a fleet of small satellites to obtain and relay Automated Identification System alerts from ships.

Constructed by LuxSpace, ESAIL was funded by the Luxembourg Area Company and different ESA member states. The mission additionally acquired non-public funding from exactEarth, which can function the satellite tv for pc on a business foundation.

A significant person of ESAIL satellite tv for pc knowledge would be the European Maritime Security Company. Officers say ESAIL will enhance fisheries monitoring, maritime fleet administration, environmental safety, and border and maritime safety companies.

The ESAIL satellite tv for pc on the SSMS rideshare construction. Credit score: ESA

Slovenia’s NEMO-HD Earth-imaging microsatellite was additionally on the Vega launch. The 143-pound (65-kilogram) NEMO-HD spacecraft will acquire medium-resolution coloration nonetheless and high-definition video imagery that may be downlinked to the bottom in realtime.

NEMO-HD was in-built Canada on the College of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Research Area Flight Laboratory for the Slovenian Middle of Excellence for Area Sciences and Applied sciences, or SPACE-SI.

A 99-pound Spanish microsatellite named UPMSat 2 was additionally on the SSMS rideshare cluster. Loaded with tech demo payloads, it was developed as an academic mission by college students on the Polytechnic College of Madrid since 2009.

The ÑuSat 6 Earth-imaging microsatellite additionally launched Wednesday night time. It’s the subsequent spacecraft to affix a distant sensing satellite tv for pc fleet owned by Satellogic, an Argentine firm.

Headquartered in Buenos Aires with a satellite tv for pc manufacturing facility in Montevideo, Uruguay, Satellogic is constructing a fleet of satellites to cowl the globe with seen, hyperspectral and infrared imagery. The corporate is one in all a number of startups energetic within the business Earth-imaging market, together with Planet, BlackSky, ICEYE, and others.

Satellogic plans to deploy a fleet of 90 microsatellites primarily utilizing Chinese language rockets. ÑuSat 6 will likely be Satellogic’s 11th satellite tv for pc to launch, and the primary to fly on a European rocket.

A small satellite tv for pc designed to observe greenhouse gases in Earth’s ambiance was additionally deployed by the Vega rocket. The GHGSat-C1 satellite tv for pc, with a launch mass of about 34 kilos (15.four kilograms), is owned by a startup named GHGSat primarily based in Montreal.

The Canadian-built spacecraft is the second to launch for GHGSat, which says the satellite tv for pc will likely be able to detecting methane emissions from particular sources, comparable to oil and gasoline wells. Buoyed by monetary infusions from climate-focused funding funds, the oilfield companies firm Schlumberger, and the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, GHGSat goals to discipline a fleet of greenhouse gas-monitoring satellites to feed knowledge to regulators and business.

After deploying the seven heavier payloads, the Vega rocket’s AVUM higher stage lit its liquid-fueled engine two extra instances to spice up itself right into a barely larger orbit.

The SSMS dispenser then ejected 46 smaller nanosatellites over a interval of lower than three minutes.

The smaller payloads included 14 SuperDove distant sensing spacecraft for Planet, and eight Lemur-2 CubeSats for Spire’s fleet of maritime, aviation, and climate monitoring nanosatellites. The SuperDove and Lemur-2 satellites are concerning the measurement of a shoebox.

The remaining payloads deployed by the Vega rocket Wednesday night time included:

  • 12 tiny SpaceBEE satellites — every concerning the measurement of a slice of bread — for Swarm Applied sciences’ low-data-rate communications community
  • FSSCat A and B, two environmental monitoring CubeSats developed by developed by ESA and the Polytechnic College of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain
  • DIDO-Three, a CubeSat for the Swiss firm SpacePharma
  • PICASSO, developed for ESA by the Belgian Institute of Area Aeronomy to gather knowledge on the ambiance and ozone
  • SIMBA, a Belgian CubeSat to measure how a lot photo voltaic power enters Earth’s ambiance
  • TRISAT, a CubeSat developed by the College of Maribor in Slovenia
  • AMICalSat, a CubeSat collectively developed by the Grenoble College Area Middle in France and Moscow State College in Russia
  •  NAPA 1, a CubeSat that will likely be Thailand’s first navy satellite tv for pc
  • Kepler Communications’ TARS tech demo CubeSat
  • OSM-1 CICERO, the primary satellite tv for pc manufactured in Monaco
  • Tyvak 0171, a CubeSat constructed by Tyvak Nano-Satellite tv for pc Techniques of California for an undisclosed buyer

With the Vega rocket again in service, Arianespace’s subsequent mission is scheduled for launch Oct. 16 from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. A medium-lift Russian Soyuz rocket is being ready to loft the Falcon Eye 2 navy spy satellite tv for pc for the United Arab Emirates.

Constructed by Airbus, Falcon Eye 2 is a twin to the Falcon Eye 1 surveillance craft destroyed throughout the Vega launch failure final 12 months.

The subsequent Vega rocket is scheduled to launch in November the Spanish SEOSat-Ingenio Earth remark satellite tv for pc and the French Taranis scientific analysis satellite tv for pc.

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Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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