The first lightweight Vega was delivered to the Spaceport today, with this latest member of Arianespace's expanded launcher family arriving only days after the service entry of its other new vehicle - the medium-lift Soyuz.
Vega came to French Guiana aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off ship, which docked yesterday at Kourou's Pariacabo Port after a two-week Atlantic crossing from Europe, and was unloaded this morning for the launcher's transfer by road to the Spaceport.
The four-stage Vega's first flight has been set for next January 26, carrying LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite) and nine cubesat educational payloads of varying sizes.
This inaugural launch will be a qualification mission performed under responsibility of the European Space Agency, since the vehicle represents a totally new configuration. As its future operator, Arianespace is heavily involved in the launch - including having one of its team members assigned the role as Launch Site Operations Manager.
Vega will lift off from the Spaceport's ZLV launch site, which originally was used for the Ariane 1 and Ariane 3 vehicles.
Planning calls for Vega's first mission campaign to begin on November 7 with rollout of its P80 first stage to the launch pad, followed during the subsequent weeks by stacking of the Zefiro 23 second stage and Zefiro 9 third stage - all of which are loaded with solid-propellant.
Claude-Henri Berna, the Arianespace Vega program director in French Guiana, said a progress review will be held on December 7 to authorize a continuation of the final integration process - allowing the bi-propellant Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) to be mated atop the launcher, and final operations to begin with the mission's multi-spacecraft payload.
Vega is produced by Italian prime contractor ELV, and will join Arianespace's launcher family as the lightweight vehicle. It will be operated from French Guiana along with the medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5, providing Arianespace with a complete vehicle inventory capable of orbiting the full range of payloads - from small scientific and institutional satellites to the largest telecommunications relay platforms and resupply spacecraft for the International Space Station.
Using Arianespace's numbering system, the maiden Vega flight is designated VV01, with the first "V" representing the French word for flight ("vol"), and the second letter referring to Vega.
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