Vega C is in orbit: the moment of the launch of the successor of the Italian rocket


Vega C is in orbit: the moment of the launch of the successor of the Italian rocket
Written by aquitodovale

It took off towards space at 3.13 pm Italian time, two hours late, and two stops on the countdown, due to a slight technical problem, and despite the drizzling weather conditions that made it disappear from view a few seconds after the detachment. . The new Vega C rocket, which is part of the space launchers of ESA (European Space Agency) and is of Italian design and construction with Avio, thus carried out its first launch, in the presence, among others at the base of Guyana, of the Minister Vittorio Colao. Vega C (the “C” stands for “Consolidated”) thus becomes part of the ESA fleet of launchers, which still relies on the powerful Ariane 5, which will then be replaced by Ariane 6 from 2023, and without the Sojuz that instead, due to the sanctions against Russia, it will no longer launch from Guyana (also considering that its medium-high power capabilities will be replaced by Ariane 6 itself).

It is the evolution of the “Vega base”, launched in 2012, a carrier rocket whose project was born in 1993 on the tables of Avio’s space engineers in Colleferro and Turin. The phase of ascent and entry into orbit took place regularly, waiting for the main load to be released (within an hour), i.e. the scientific satellite Lares-2, of the Italian Space Agency, largely built in the Ohb laboratories of Milan, and a small group of cubic mini-satellites made by private individuals.

Marino Fragnito, VP Business Unit of Arianespace

A carrier rocket made in Italy. “The C of Vega C stands for consolidation, that of 10 years of use of the Vega for the market of small and medium satellites – says from Kourou Marino Fragnito, who is Vice resident of the Business Unit of Arianespace – and is therefore the best answer to the needs of this market. Basically, the range in terms of mass has increased by 50 per cent, while the volume available to the payload has doubled ».

«The flexibility in terms of accommodating multiple satellites – he adds – has improved even more compared to the Vega as well as the ability to enter these satellites in 3 different orbits (at different altitudes) while with the standard Vega only two orbits were possible. This is because the possible restarts of the upper stage motor have gone from 5 to 7 “. “The engine of the first stage has gone from about 90 tons of solid propellant to about 140, and the same engine will be used as the side booster of Ariane 6, constituting the first common building block of the European Ariane and Vega launchers, and thus allowing economies of scale in production », adds Fragnito.

The development of Vega C was formally approved on 12 August 2015 and involves the use of a P120C for the first stage (an increased version of the P80, also used as a booster for Ariane 6), a Z40 for the second stage, a Z9 for the third and the AVUM + (which has 20 percent more propellant than the standard AVUM of the base Vega) for the fourth stage. The ogive-shaped fairing at the top has a diameter of 3.3 meters and a height of over 9 meters. Made of carbon fiber-polymer composite, it protects satellites from thermal, acoustic and aerodynamic stresses during take-off and ascent into space. The P120C will be used both by Ariane 6 as a booster at the base of the first stage, and by Vega-C, and is developed in collaboration by ArianeGroup and Avio.

The launcher of the European shuttle Vega C debuts with its first launch by putting the Italian satellite into orbit, developed by OHB Italia as the first contractor, called “Lares-2”, for geodesy studies and for the confirmation of some of the theories of general relativity of Einstein, and a cluster of educational and institutional CubeSats. But among its objectives there will also be that of inserting the European automatic shuttle Space Rider into Earth orbit, the first launch of which will take place by the end of 2023. “Thanks to Vega C, the possibilities for European launch will expand – explains Giulio Ranzo, CEO di Avio – being able to fully exploit the potential of the Ssms satellite launching platform and expanding the variety of satellites and transportable loads. Among these, there is Space Rider, ESA’s experimental vehicle, automatic and reusable, for which Avio supplies the propulsion and service module. The applications of Space Rider range from the possibility of carrying out experiments in microgravity, to the mitigation of the risk of collisions in orbit, by moving the satellites no longer functioning in cemetery orbits or facilitating their controlled atmospheric reentry. And it will give Europe the opportunity to experiment with technologies for robotics in space, useful for exploration programs beyond the Earth with and without crew ». The Vega C itself could have a successor in the future.

And we are already thinking of the Vega-E successor with a natural gas engine. The future evolution is the Vega E, with the aim of making the most of the experiences obtained during the Vega development program, using engines already available or under development, starting from the innovative upper stage with methane and liquid oxygen, with the innovative M-10 engine. Two main configurations emerged during the preliminary evaluation phase of the launch system. The first (Vega – E light) is a two-stage launcher with a payload of 400 kg towards the low earth orbit, consisting of the Z40 (current second stage of the Vega C) and the methane and oxygen stage. The other configuration (Vega-E heavy) has similar performance to Vega C and is composed of the P120C at the first stage, the Z40 at the second and the methane-oxygen one as the upper stage. The evolution of the Italian ESA rocket has officially begun.

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