Washington: The second flight of ESA`s newest launch vehicle, Vega, has been completed from Europe`s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, releasing 3 satellites into different orbits.
Two Earth observation satellites, ESA`s Proba-V and Vietnam`s VNREDSat1A, were released into different orbits, demonstrating the rocket`s versatility.
Estonia`s first satellite, the ESTCube1 technology demonstrator, was also released into orbit.
Vega lifted off at 02:06 GMT on 7 May (23:06 local time 6 May; 04:06 CEST 7 May) on a complex mission requiring five upper-stage boosts and lasting about twice as long as its first launch, in February 2012.
The three solid-propellant stages performed flawlessly and, after two burns of the liquid-propellant upper stage, Proba-V was released into a circular orbit at an altitude of 820 km, over the western coast of Australia, some 55 minutes into flight.
The satellite is now being controlled by ESA`s centre in Redu, Belgium, where it is undergoing a health check and testing before the operational phase starts to monitor the vegetation coverage on Planet Earth.
After releasing Proba-V, the upper stage performed a third burn and the top half of the egg-shaped Vega Secondary Payload Adapter was ejected. After a fourth burn to circularise the orbit at an altitude of 704 km, VNREDSat-1A was released 1 hour 57 minutes into flight. ESTCube1 was ejected from its dispenser three minutes later.
A fifth and last burn will now place the spent upper stage on a trajectory that ensures a safe re-entry that complies with new debris mitigation regulations.
The flight was conducted under the Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment programme (VERTA) that aims at demonstrating the versatility of the launch system. It also marked the start of the transition from ESA to Arianespace as launch operator. Arianespace provided flight analysis, preparation and operations, and the marketing that secured VNREDSat-1A as Vega`s first commercial payload.
This second mission demonstrated Vega`s capability to launch multiple satellite stacks with the new VESPA multiple launch adapter, as well as its overall flexibility.
It also introduced new flight software developed by contractor ELV and a new tracking station in the northwest of French Guiana that ensures telemetry links during some phases of the flight when they could be affected by the plume from the solid propellants.
" Vega has confirmed that it is ready to deliver a high-quality service for small payloads to low Earth orbit," said Antonio Fabrizi, ESA`s Director of Launchers.
Proba-V is based on the platform flown on two previous ESA missions and carries the Vegetation imager to map global vegetation cover every two days, as a follow-on to the first generation of Vegetation imagers on France`s Spot-4 and -5 satellites.
Proba-V is flying in the same orbit as Spot-5 in order to take over from the ageing satellite on its retirement next year.
VNREDSat-1A (Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment, Disaster Satellite) is a 115,3 kg commercial remote sensing satellite built by Astrium for Vietnam`s Academy of Sciences and Technologies. Its launch was contracted through Arianespace in January.
ESTCube-1 is Estonia`s first satellite. This 1.3 kg CubeSat was designed and built by students from the University of Tartu with a contribution from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. It will deploy a 10 m-long tether to demonstrate electrostatic manoeuvring through the plasma flow, which could lead to electrostatic solar sails for propellantless interplanetary travel.