The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched a Vega-C rocket carrying seven science satellites. It is the first launch of the Vega-C, a new launcher that should be a replacement for the Russian Soyuz.
The rocket took off from the European launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, on Wednesday afternoon. It happened after the launch stopped twice during the countdown. The rocket brought seven satellites from different European countries. These were all scientific satellites, the most notable being the Italian Lares-2 rocket. This satellite will conduct research on the effect of gravity on space-time, among other things. In addition, six smaller cubes by missile.
The missile has a height of 34.8 meters, which is about five meters larger than its predecessor. Importantly, the Vega-C can carry 2.3 tons of cargo into polar Earth orbit and 3.3 tons into low Earth orbit. That’s nearly double the original missile.
The launch of the Vega-C is an important milestone for the European Space Agency. The missile is the successor to the original Vega which has made 20 flights since 2012, two of which have failed. ESA uses the Vega rocket to launch small to medium-sized satellites.
Arianespace has used Russia’s Soyuz rocket for nearly a quarter of its launches, as well as its own Ariane 5 rocket. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and Europe imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia, it has become impossible to use Soyuz missiles for launches. With the Vega-C, Europe wants to become more independent from other countries to launch satellites.
In total, thirteen European countries made a technical contribution to the development of the missile. Dutch company Airbus Space built the intermediate piece between the first and second stages.
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