The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to put a new breed of satellites into space, launching them aboard the Vega rocket which is all set to take off today in French Guiana.
This launch of the Vega rocket, which is expected to take place at 23:06 local time, Friday or 02:06 GMT, Saturday at the Kourou spaceport, marks the second launch of the Vega by the ESA and besides demonstrating the rocket’s capabilities, the launch will also be putting the Proba-V satellite into Earth’s orbit.
The 30 meter tall rocket, which was first launched back in February of this year, burns in 4 stages, using a solid fuel for the first three and a liquid propellant for the fourth and final stage. This fourth stage actually helps the Vega rocket to stop and then re-start its burn, allowing for the rocket to stop at certain altitudes, dropping off payloads, and then resume its flight. This feature also the rocket to come back, reducing the number of rocket leftovers in orbit. The second launch of the Vega rocket, is a part of the Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment (Verta) programme which not only is testing out the new systems of the rocket but also presents the first opportunity for space ‘freight forwarding’ as among the payloads on the Vega, besides the Proba-V satellite are an Earth observation spacecraft built by Vietnam and a ‘nano-satellite’ from Estonia. The Vietnamese spacecraft, VNREDSat-1, built by the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology, is the first such satellite for the country and is also the first commercial cargo of the Vega, with the Vietnamese academy paying for the spacecraft to be put aboard Vega.
As for the Proba-V, the satellite will be using a ‘vegetation imager’ to gather vegetation data that the French Spot 4 and 5 satellites has already been gathering. Speaking about this, Frederic Teston, ESA's Proba programme manager said, "For scientists, it's very important to have continuity and long time-series, and to carry on beyond Spot 5's vegetation observations. But for the requirements of our Proba missions, there has to be some additional performance."
Antonio Fabrizi, director of launchers at the ESA also spoke about the Vega’s launch saying, "ESA continues to offer European states easy access to space. Last time, we had the first Polish satellite launched into orbit. This time it will be the case for Estonia to have a satellite in orbit."