The European Vega rocket returned to flight late Wednesday evening (April 28), delivering the most advanced Earth observation satellite in Europe to date.
European launch provider Arianespace launched its mission from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana at 9:50 p.m. ET (01:50 p.m. GMT), carrying the Pléiades Neo 3 Earth observation satellite and five small “joint “cargo. This was the first Vega launch since November, when the failure of its Avum upper stage resulted in the loss of two Earth observation satellites.
The launch on Wednesday, Vega’s 18th, was the second launch of a light rocket with a Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser designed to meet the growing demand for small satellite sharing services.
In addition to the 900 kilogram (2,000 lb) Pléiades Neo 3, the rocket delivered five auxiliary satellites into orbit, including the Norwegian experimental navigation radar detector NorSat-3, the Eutelsat Tyvak-182A 6U cubesat telecommunications satellite and two Spire Lemur-2 satellites. for marine and aviation tracking.
Travel to orbit
The Avum renewable booster stage, carrying a six-satellite SSMS, separated from the rocket six minutes and 33 seconds after liftoff and fired its liquid-fueled engine to bring the payloads into correct orbits. The first combustion of the Avum Upper Stage lasted almost eight minutes, followed by an almost 37-minute ballistic phase and an 80-second combustion.
54 minutes after launch, reaching an altitude of about 385 miles (620 kilometers), Avum deployed the Pléiades Neo 3 satellite, which will orbit the planet in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, revisiting every place on Earth at the same time.
The Avum Upper Stage subsequently performed two more burns lasting four seconds and seven seconds before releasing five additional payloads at 380 miles (613 km). The last entry into orbit was successfully completed approximately one hour and 40 minutes after the launch.
Europe’s keenest gaze on Earth
The main payload, Pléiades Neo 3, is the first satellite in a group of four spacecraft built and operated by European aerospace giant Airbus Defense and Space. The Pléiades Neo constellation with a resolution of 30 centimeters (12 inches) will be the most advanced Earth observation service in Europe.
Pléiades Neo satellites can also connect to the SpaceDataHighway geostationary satellites network (also known as the European Data Relay System) “to provide urgent data collection in just 30-40 minutes after requesting a task for rapid response in the most critical situations,” the statement said. Airbus representatives.
“Pléiades Neo is a game changer for Airbus and its exploration customers,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, head of Airbus’ space systems division, in a statement. “We are able to offer a state-of-the-art near-real-time 30cm constellation, opening up a whole new range of applications that allow our customers to provide more detailed information quickly and quickly.”
An investigation into the Vega’s failed launch in November 2020 revealed that the top stage of the Avum went out of control after being severed due to improperly connected cables. The launch failure was preceded by one successful flight in September 2020, followed by another failure in July 2019.
Then what Arianespace called a “serious setback” destroyed the Earth observation satellite Falcon Eye 1 in the United Arab Emirates just two minutes after launch. Later, the accident was attributed to a faulty second-stage rocket engine. Prior to this Vega completed 14 successful flights, including its debut flight in February 2012.
Thanks to the success of Wednesday’s return mission, Arianespace and its Vega rocket are on track to launch another Pléiades Neo satellite this year, and the company expects to use Vega to complete the four-satellite constellation in 2022.
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