|Function||Small orbital launch vehicle|
|Country of origin||Italy/Europe|
|Height||30 m (98 ft)|
|Diameter||3 m (9.8 ft)|
|Mass||137,000 kg (300,000 lb)|
|Payload to LEO||1,500 kg (3,300 lb)|
|Launch sites||ZLV (ELA-1), Centre Spatial Guyanais|
|First flight||13 February 2012at 10:00 UTC|
|Burn time||109.8 seconds|
|Engines||1 Zefiro 23|
|Burn time||77.7 seconds|
|Engines||1 Zefiro 9|
|Burn time||117 seconds|
|Burn time||315.2 seconds|
Vega (Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata,Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket) is an expendable launch system in use by Arianespace jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. Development began in 1998 and the first launch took place from the Guiana Space Centre on 13 February 2012.
It is designed to launch small payloads — 300 to 2,500 kg satellites for scientific and Earth observation missions to polar and low Earth orbits. The reference Vega mission is a polar orbit bringing a spacecraft of 1,500 kilograms to an altitude of 700 kilometers.
Vega is a single-body launcher (no strap-on boosters) with three solid rocket stages, the P80 first stage, the Zefiro 23 second stage, the Zefiro 9 third stage, and a liquid rocket upper module called AVUM. The technology developed for the P80 program will also be used for future Ariane developments. Italy is the leading contributor to the Vega program (65%), followed by France (13%). Other participants include Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.
Arianespace is marketing Vega as a launch system tailored for missions to low Earth and sun-synchronous orbits. In its qualification flight VEGA put its main payload of 386.8 kg, the LARES satellite, into a circular orbit at the altitude of 1450 km with an inclination of 69.5 degrees.
To compare with other current or retired rockets:
|Rokot||Dnepr-1||Taurus||ISRO PSLV||Soyuz-1 (Soyuz-2.1v)|
|Lift off mass||136 t||210 t||107 t||211 t||73 t||294 t||157-160 t|
|Height||30 m||47.40 m||29.15 m||34.3 m||27.9 m||44.0 m||44.0 m|
|Diameter||3 m||3.80 m||2.50 m||3 m||2.35 m||2.8 m||2.95 m|
|Heliosynchron orbit payload||0.3 t –
|1.6 t||1.4 t|
|LEO payload||1.5 t – 2 t||1.95 t
(LEO, 200 km, 63°)
(LEO, 200 km, 66°)
|1.35 t||3.5 t||2.8 t
(LEO, 200 km, 62.8°)
|Polar orbit payload||1.5 t||1,200 kg
600 km, 98°
(1.41 t to GTO)
|Success rate||2 from 2||9 from 11||16 from 18||16 from 17||6 from 9||19 from 21||development|
|Launch price||€32 million||development|
|||First Stage||Second Stage||Third Stage||Fourth Stage|
|Propulsion||P80||Zefiro 23||Zefiro 9||AVUM|
|Height||10.5 m||7.5 m||3.85 m||1.74 m|
|Diameter||3 m||1.9 m||1.9 m||1.9 m|
|Propellant mass||88 t||23.9 t||10.1 t||0.55 t|
|Thrust (max)||3,040 kN (683,420 lbf)||1,200 kN (269,770 lbf)||213 kN (47,880 lbf)||2.45 kN (550 lbf)|
|Nozzle expansion ratio||16||25||56||–|
|Burn time||109.8 s||77.7 s||117 s||317 s|
|Specific impulse||279.5 s||289 s||294 s||315.2 s|
Vega's payload fairing is designed and manufactured by RUAG Space of Switzerland. It has a diameter of 2.6 meters, a height of 7.8 meters and a mass of 400kg.
Three solid motor stages
Each of the three engine types intended for the three stages of the Vega had to be commissioned with two test-firings - one for design evaluation and one in the final flight configuration.
The first engine completed was Zefiro 9, the third stage engine. The first test firing was carried out on 20 December 2005, at the Salto di Quirra Inter-force Test Range, on the Mediterranean coast in southeast Sardinia. The test was a complete success.
After a critical design review based on the completed first test firings, the second test-firing of the Zefiro 9 took place at Salto di Quirra on 28 March 2007. After 35 seconds, there was a sudden drop in the motor's internal pressure, leading to an increased combustion time. No public information is available for this sudden drop of internal pressure, and what if any flaws were present in the motor's design.
On 23 October 2008 an enhanced version of the Zefiro 9 with a modified nozzle design, the Zefiro 9-A, was successfully tested.
On 28 April 2009, the final qualification test firing of Zefiro 9-A took place at the Salto di Quirra Interforce Test Range in Sardinia, Italy.
The development of the Zefiro motor was initiated by Avio, partially funded by the company and partially funded by a contract from the Italian Space Agency. A Zefiro 23 forms the second stage of Vega. Its carbon-epoxy case is filament-wound and its carbon phenolic nozzle includes a carbon-carbon throat insert. The propellant loading is 23 tons.
The Zefiro 23 second stage engine was first fired on 26 June 2006 at Salto di Quirra. This test was successful.
The second test firing of the Zefiro 23 second stage engine took place on 27 March 2008 also at Salto di Quirra. This successful test qualified the rocket engine.
The P80 first stage also uses a filament-wound case. Its nozzle uses a flexible joint that is electrically actuated.
The second test firing of the P80 first stage engine took place on 4 December 2007 in Kourou. Delivering a mean thrust of 190 tonnes over 111 seconds, the engine's behaviour was in line with predictions.
The AVUM (Attitude Vernier Upper Module) upper module consists of a propulsion module and an avionics module. The module uses a RD-869 rocket engine liquid-fuel rocket burning pressure-fed UDMH and nitrogen tetroxide as propellants, built by Yuzhnoye Design Bureau. The AVUM avionics module contains the main components of the avionics sub-system of the vehicle.
Lead-up to first launch
Enrico Saggese, at that time head of the Italian Space Agency, suggested in October 2008 that the first flight of VEGA might be delayed, stating "We have to decide if we want to wait until we have another programme", and referring to plans to have German participation to develop new third and fourth stages.
In 2009 the first launch of the system was anticipated to take place in November 2010; later press suggested that the launch would slip to early 2012, until ESA publicized the launch for "end of January 2012".
The maiden flight occurred on 13 February 2012.
|Type||Serial-no.||Startplace||Payload||Type of payload||Orbit||Outcome||Remarks|
|Vega||VV01||ELV||LARES / ALMASat 1 / e-st@r / Goliat / MaSat-1 / PW-Sat / ROBUSTA / UniCubeSat-GG / XaTcobeo||Geodetic and nanosatellites||LEO orbit||Success||First Vega launch|
|VERTA||VV02||ELV||Proba-V / VNREDSat 1A / ESTCube-1||Earth observation satellite||SSO orbit||Success||First launch by Arianespace|
|2014||Vega||ELV||DZZ-HR||Earth observation satellite||SSO orbit|
|2014||VERTA||ELV||ADM-Aeolus||Weather satellite||SSO orbit|
|2014||VERTA||ELV||IXV||Reentry technology demonstration||Suborbital|
|2014-16||Vega||ELV||Sentinel 2B||Earth observation satellite||SSO orbit|
|2014-16||Vega||ELV||Sentinel 3B||Earth observation satellite||SSO orbit|
|2015||Vega||ELV||Sentinel 5P||Weather satellite||SSO orbit|
|2015||VERTA||ELV||LISA Pathfinder||Technology demonstrator||Halo orbit Earth-Sun L1|
Planned future launches
Having successfully completed the maiden qualification flight, and waiting the outcome of the second flight, ESA has plans for four more flights in its "VERTA programme". The VERTA flights will carry several ESA missions such as Proba-V, ADM-Aeolus, LISA Pathfinder and the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV). The launch of LISA Pathfinder is now planned for 2015 but some source identifies it as the payload of the VEGA third flight.
In a meeting held on 14 December 2011 in Evry, France, representatives from Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a contract that binds the company to launch the Sentinel-2B and Sentinel-3B satellites aboard a Vega rocket. Furthermore the Sentinel 5P weather satellite is planned to be launched with a Vega rocket in 2015.
Developments costs for the Vega rocket were €710 million, with ESA spending an additional €400 million to sponsor five development flights between 2012 and 2014. Commercial launch costs have been estimated at €32 million with an assumed launch rate of 2 per year, a price set to compete with converted Russian ballistic missiles (around €12 million) and launchers from emerging economies (India's PSLV launch costs about €15 million).
There was a concept study for a new medium-size launcher based on Vega and Ariane 5 elements. This launcher would use an Ariane 5 P230 first stage, a Vega P80 second stage and an Ariane 5 third stage using either storable or cryogenic fuel. The addition of Soyuz to the Arianespace launch vehicle lineup removed momentum from this initiative.
The future upgraded Vega (LYRA program) has exceeded the feasibility study and is planned to have new third and fourth low cost LOX/HC stages and a new guidance system. The purpose of the program is to upgrade the performance by about 30% without significant price increase.
On 14 February 2012, one day after the successful first launch of Vega, the German space agency moved to be included in the program. Johann-Dietrich Woerner, head of the German Aerospace Agency DLR, said Germany wanted to join the project. Germany would provide a replacement for the RD-869 engine on the AVUM fourth stage, currently made in Ukraine. The Vega Launcher Manager stated that it will not fly in the near future because it takes some time to develop, but he confirmed it will be on agenda in the next meeting of ministers in late 2012. That way, all components of the rocket would be built inside the EU, excluding the Swiss made ones.
- "Vega liftoff". ESA.
- ESA: Antonio Fabrizi: from "nuts and bolts" to Europe’s launchers of today and tomorrow 
- "ESA – Vega". Esa.int. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Amos, Jonathan (13 February 2012). "Vega launcher makes first flight". BBC News. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "Vega Launcher Targets Government Market". Aviation Week. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- CLARK, S. (14 February 2012). "Vega launcher program courts German participation". Spaceflight Now. p. 1. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Vega — Overview". Arianespace.
- "Vega — Performance". Arianespace.
- I. Ciufolini et al. The Design of LARES: A Satellite for Testing General Relativity, IAC-07-B4.2.07, proceedings of the 58th International Astronautical Congress, India, Hyderabad, 2007
- ISRO PSLV
- "Space Propulsion". Aviogroup.com. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- ESA: Successful first test for Vega's Zefiro 9 engine
- ESA: Vega Critical Design Review begins
- ESA: Anomalous behaviour affects firing test of Vega’s Zefiro 9 motor
- "Successful first test for Vega’s Zefiro 9-A solid-fuel rocket motor". ESA. 24 October 2008.
- "Successful second test for Vega’s Zefiro 9-A solid-fuel rocket motor". ESA. 30 April 2009.
- M. Caporicci (November 2000). "The Future of European Launchers: The ESA Perspective". ESA.
- ESA: Vega's second stage motor roars to life
- Successful qualification firing test for Zefiro 23
- ESA: Successful firing of Vega’s first-stage motor in Kourou
- ESA: Vega main engine test in Kourou
- "The Ukrainian engine operated successfully on the new European rocket". Youzhnoye KB. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Vega Launcher". ESA. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- "Italian Space Agency Plans its Relaunch". Flight International. 31 October 2008.
- "Avio: Vega's motors qualify but maiden launch slips to 2010". Flight International. 29 April 2009.
- "Delays seen for Soyuz, VEGA launches at Europe's Space Base". AFP. 15 June 2009.
- "Vega moves closer to its first liftoff". ESA. 15 December 2011.
- "ESA’s new Vega launcher scores success on maiden flight.".
- Greg Delaney (2012-06-22). "Kazakhstan to launch sastellite on new Arianespace Vega vehicle". kazakhstanlive.com. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- "Vega to fly ESA experimental reentry vehicle". ESA. 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- "Vega milestones". Arianespace. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- "Sentinel 5P". ESA. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- "VERTA programme". ESA. 2013-04-29.
- "Lisa pathfinder overview". ESA. 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- Gunter Dirk Krebs. "Vega". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
- Tudor Vieru (2011-12-19). "Vega Rocket to Launch Two ESA Sentinel Satellites".
- "Flying Test Beds, FTB-X".
- Tariq Malik (12 March 2007). "Italian Firm Hails Test of Unmanned Spacecraft Prototype".
- de Selding, Peter B. (2012-02-13). "Europe’s Italian-led Vega Rocket Succeeds in Debut". SPACE NEWS.
- Messier, Doug (2012-02-16). "Officials Eye New Upper Stage for Vega Rocket". Parabolic Arc.
- ""LIRA | VEGA evolution"". Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- CLARK, S. (14 February 2012). ""Vega launcher program courts German participation"". Spaceflight Now. p. 1. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Stephen Clark (21 November 2012). "European ministers decide to stick with Ariane 5, for now". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Vega (rocket)|
- Vega launcher, European Space Agency.
- Vega Launcher, Avio Group
- First stone for Vega at Europe's Spaceport
- Vega brochure
- Vega Leaflet
- Vega Nozzle
- Telemetry Simulator of VEGA
- A star rocket is born (Television production). Euronews. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- Vega's First Launch Campaign. ESA. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2012.