On Tuesday, September 2, at 10:51 p.m. local time in Kourou, French Guiana (UTC-3), Arianespace’s light-lift Vega launcher performed its 15th successful mission, marking its return to full flight — this is the first European “rideshare” mission for 53 smallsats.
The satellites onboard VV16 are in two smallsat categories: seven primary micro-satellites with a mass of 25 to 145 kg.; and 46 nano-satellites with a mass of 250 g. to 7 kg. The first seven satellites were released between the mission’s 40th and 52nd minute, while the remaining 46 were deployed during a sequence of less than three minutes, occurring 1 hour, 42 minutes after liftoff.
Among these 53 satellites, certain spacecraft will be dedicated to Earth Observation (EO), with innovative projects such as GHGSAT-C1, a Canadian satellite at the service of air quality; or ION Satellite Carrier Lucas for the Planet company. OSM-1 CICERO is the first satellite from Orbital Solutions Monaco, a Monegasque start-up; while ESAIL is the first commercial smallsat developed under the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SAT-AIS program for tracking ships.
Several experimental satellites also were on board Vega, such as TARS from the Kepler company, which is dedicated to the Internet of Things; as well as the 14 satellites from Swarm Technology, an American start-up whose mission is the use of artificial intelligence in robots and computers.
With the demonstration of its new SSMS service, Arianespace is strengthening its position in the growing market for small satellites. This service will soon be supplemented by the MLS (Multi Launch Service) – a similar offer available on Ariane 6, allowing Arianespace to increase the number of affordable launch opportunities for small satellites and constellations.
Proposed for the first time by Arianespace, the SSMS is a European project supported by Europe’s space team. Benefiting from European Space Agency (ESA) funding, the SSMS structure was developed by Avio, located in Colleferro, Italy – which is the Vega launcher’s industrial prime contractor – and manufactured by the Czech company SAB Aerospace.
The European Union also contributed to the funding of this demonstration flight in the Horizon 2020 program’s framework. As a new-generation light-lift launcher, Vega is perfectly suited to the requirements of the institutional and commercial market. Its performance and versatility enable Arianespace to offer the best possible solutions for putting small to medium-sized payloads into orbit for a wide range of missions: Sun-synchronous low orbit missions (such as Sentinel-2A), ballistic missions (the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle/IXV, as an example), missions in transfer orbit to the Lagrange Point L1 (LISA Pathfinder), and for numerous applications (Earth observation, science, education, defense).
According to the company, with Vega C, Arianespace will offer increased performance and volume under the payload fairing for its future passengers at the same cost.
“With Vega’s successful return to flight, we are delighted to have served 21 customers from 13 different countries,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “These satellites will serve a variety of different applications, including Earth observation, the battle against climate change, telecommunications, the Internet of Things, science, as well as education. With this shared launch, space becomes accessible to everyone, including research labs, universities and startups. ‘Bravo’ to the European space team, which has worked from start to finish in adding this new service to Arianespace’s offering, enabling this magnificent success.”
Original news item…
September 1 has been established as the ‘go’ date for the lightweight Vega launcher’s flight from French Guiana to demonstrate Arianespace’s rideshare response to the growing small satellite market.
This upcoming Proof of Concept mission – which carries a total of 53 small satellites on a new dispenser system – was authorized for Tuesday which confirmed the preparedness of Vega, along with the payloads, the Spaceport’s launch site infrastructure, and the network of tracking stations.
Designated Flight VV16 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, it will validate the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) – using a modular dispenser whose components can be assembled as needed in a building-block style. For tomorrow’s flight, seven microsatellites are installed on the dispenser’s upper portion, while 46 smaller CubeSats have been positioned on the lower portion’s hexagon-shaped module.
During Vega’s flight sequence, the seven microsatellites are to be deployed in Sun-synchronous orbit from 40 minutes into the mission through 52 minutes; followed by the CubeSats’ phased release from 1 hour, 42 minutes to just under 1 hour, 45 minutes.
SSMS provides Arianespace with flight opportunities for nano- and micro-satellites, offering solutions perfectly suited to this growing sub-segment of the launch marketplace. The service enables multiple small satellites from 1 kg. to 500 kg. to be flown together on Vega with the objective of sharing the launch cost.
Arianespace and SSMS provide the same services to the small satellite operatore as the largest customers – while new operators such as laboratories, universities and start-ups are guaranteed optimum conditions for the launch of their space projects.
The SSMS dispenser system is a European Space Agency (ESA) product developed by Italy’s Avio under ESA leadership, and was produced by the Czech company SAB Aerospace s.r.o. (CZ). The European Union contributed to the financing of tomorrow’s Proof of Concept flight.