The new variant of Arianespace’s Vega rocket called the Vega C that has an updated first and second stage just received another payload contract. Vega C is planning on its launch debut in mid-2021, but Arianespace is unsure if we’ll see this pushed back after another failed launch attempt last month.
Airbus will be launching four Earth observation satellites that support the French Space Agency CNES on top of the new Vega C rocket from their South America spaceport in French Guiana. This is one of 10 contracts with Arianespace to launch payloads on the new launcher.
Vega Arianespace’s light lift launcher is the newest part of their launcher family. It first launched back in 2012 and has since had a relatively successful launch history until recently. Last year, Vega’s second stage failed due to a design flaw in its thermal protection system. It failed a second time last month when a suspected inverted control cable caused the AVUM upper stage to lose control.
It seems there’s no concern from potential customers about Vega being a possible unreliable launch vehicle. Airbus plans to launch all four of their satellites for the new Composante Optique 3D (CO3D) constellation in one launch. Each satellites weighs close to 300 kg and well within the range of even the current Vega variant.
“With several months to go before the first Vega C launch, this new-generation European light-lift launcher has reaffirmed its ability to meet users’ innovative needs in low orbit, especially with the ability to carry multiple payloads – benefitting from the improved performance. For Arianespace, this is a further sign of the renewed confidence in the Vega system by our long-time partners of Airbus and CNES.”
Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace
CO3D’s mission is to create a 3D map of the Earth’s surface using stereoscopic images, which is the process of taking images from slightly different points of view to generate a 3D image. The photos will be fed into a image processing system by Airbus and use algorithms developed by CNES to complete this task.