ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


European launcher for small and medium satellites


The Vega II development programme for the small Vega launcher is an ESA programme (European Space Agency) in which Italy is playing a leading role since it is the main 'shareholder' in the programme with a contribution equal to 65% of the overall cost. Other participating states in the programme are: France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Sweden.

In order to improve the consolidation of Italian leadership in the programme ASI set up ELV with Avio (70% Avio and 30% ASI participation). ELV SpA was delegated the responsibility for Vega and qualification as industrial Prime Contractor. With the stipulation of an intergovernmental agreement, ESA, ASI and CNES have established an Integrated Project Team (IPT Integrated Project Team) headquartered at Frascati at the ESA-ESRIN facilities where all three agencies participate with representatives. The small launcher Vega, 30 metres high, 3 metres maximum diameter and weighing 137 tons, a member of the European Space Agency's (ESA) family of launchers, was designed for launching small satellites into low orbit. Its reference performance is 1,500 kg to 700 km in SSO (sun-synchronous) polar orbit.

The launcher is made up of three stages with solid propellant motors (about 80, 23 and 9 tons each, developed by Avio with innovative technologies, especially the composite casing featuring carbon epoxy filament wound casing and nozzle) and a liquid propellant high stage with the capability of multiple restarting called the Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM). Development of the launcher started in 1998. The first Vega lifted off on 13 February 2012 on a flawless qualification flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, where the Ariane 1 launch facilities have been adapted for its use. The extended capabilities of Vega beyond the mission that was performed in the VV01 qualification flight have been made possible in part by the addition of Vespa (VEga Secondary Payload Adapter). Vespa allows for multiple payloads and their deployment into different orbits.

Compared to the first Vega launch, with VV02 there was a change in both inclination and orbit for the satellites. This is a complex procedure and resulted in a much longer mission – at 160 minutes it is more than double that of VV01.

Proba-V was the first payload released by Vespa into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit at 820 km altitude and an inclination of 98.73°. At this point, the Vespa adapter separated and Vega then, through a series of five burns and coasts, moved into a second orbit at 668 km altitude and an inclination of 98.13° for the second deployment of the two remaining payloads. A final burn will deorbit the upper stage to ensure that it does not remain as a debris threat. In addition to the Vespa adapter, this second Vega launcher also has new flight software.To receive telemetry during the early phase of the flight, a new ground station has been built in the north of French Guiana.

The first launch of 2015 for is scheduled for the 11th of February. Vega will take into orbit the experimental re-entry capsule "Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle", of which Italy is the main contributor.