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Satellite Communications Technology

Payload integration is completed for Arianespace’s Vega rideshare mission with 53 small satellites

(10 June 2020 - Arianespace) The 53 satellite passengers for Arianespace’s rideshare flight with its Vega light-lift launcher have been integrated at the Spaceport in French Guiana, marking a key milestone in preparation for the June 18 Proof of Concept mission with Europe’s Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS).

During activity at the Spaceport, Vega’s payload of seven microsatellites (weighing 15 kg. to 150 kg.), along with 46 smaller CubeSats, were installed on the SSMS platform – from which they will be deployed into Sun-synchronous orbits during the Vega mission.

The SSMS hardware development was funded by the European Space Agency (ESA); the European Union contributed to the financing of this Proof of Concept flight. The combined European efforts will enhance Arianespace’s response to the rideshare demand with solutions that are perfectly suited to the flourishing small satellite market.

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Shown during the SSMS payload integration process for Arianespace’s Flight VV16 is the ION CubeSat carrier – a platform that will deploy 12 CubeSats after being placed in orbit by the Vega launcher. (courtesy: Arianespace)

Europe’s rideshare answer for small-sats

The SSMS provides a new dedicated European rideshare solution with Vega that is modular and capable of accommodating a full range of payload combinations. Vega’s upcoming Proof of Concept mission – designated Flight VV16 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system – was conceived in the context of ESA’s LLL (Light satellite, Low-cost, Launch opportunity) initiative.

The lift performance for Vega on Flight VV16 is approximately 1,310 kg.

During the June 18 nighttime mission, Vega’s liftoff and ascent will be powered by the launcher’s solid-propellant first, second and third stages, followed by four ignitions of the AVUM bi-propellent upper stage.

During Vega’s flight sequence, the seven microsatellites will be deployed 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, 44 minutes, 56 seconds.

Italy’s Avio is the production prime contractor for Vega, delivering the integrated launcher to Arianespace. Avio also developed the small satellite delivery system and the specific mission preparation process for Flight VV16, performing these tasks under ESA leadership. Design authority for the multi-payload dispenser system is SAB Aerospace s.r.o. of the Czech Republic.