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February 6-12, 2012 / Vol 31, No 6 / Hawai`i Island, USA

3 Feb 2012, 20:56 UTC
February 6-12, 2012 / Vol 31, No 6 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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Vega Inaugural Launch Set for Feb 9 from Kourou, French Guiana

The maiden voyage of Europe’s Vega rocket (TR), VV01, is set to launch NET February 13 from Kourou, French Guiana (BR). Developed by ESA, the Italian Space Agency and CNES, the 4-stage, 30-Meter rocket weighs approximately 137,000kg and is designed to carry payloads weighing 300-1,500kg into orbit. Unlike other small launchers, Vega is able to place multiple payloads into various Low-Earth and Sun-Synchronous orbits. The main payloads for the inaugural flight include the Italian Space Agency Laser Relativity Satellite (LARES) (CL), which will study the Lense-Thirring effect caused by Earth’s gravity, the 12.5-kg ALMASat-1 (BL), and 7 CubeSats from various universities in Europe. In its qualification flight, Vega will insert the 400-kg LARES satellite into a 1,450km orbit. Europe has spent nearly €700M (US$924M) on the Vega launch system in hopes that it will provide a safe and reliable way to carry science and Earth observation satellites into orbit while complimenting the heavy Ariane 5 and Soyuz rockets. If the launch is successful, ESA will plan 5 further missions using the Vega rocket before 2016. Pictured: ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain. (Image Credit: ESA, Arianespace, space.skyrocket.de, en.rian.ru)
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