Vega rocket takes off with Airbus observation satellite, Miniature CubeSats

A European Vega rocket took off on Monday night from French Guiana carrying an Earth observation satellite and four miniature “cubosats”.

It was the second launch this year of the Vega, a crucial component of European ambitions to compete with rivals like Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the growing commercial aerospace market.

The rocket took off from the Guyana Space Center in Kourou at 10:47 pm (7:17 am IST), successfully delivering the satellites in just under two hours.

Its main payload was a high-resolution satellite, the second of four to a new Earth observation constellation operated by Airbus. The first was put into orbit in April by a Vega rocket.

The Pleiades Neo constellation will offer high-resolution images of the Earth for military or civil uses, in response to disasters, according to Airbus.

Vega operator Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, of which Airbus owns half.

The last Vega also carried four miniature satellites, known as “cubosats”.

One of them will be part of a constellation of satellites being developed by the French startup Unseenlabs, specializing in maritime traffic monitoring.

The three remaining cubosats are from the European Space Agency for scientific and technological demonstration purposes.

Monday’s launch was the second Vega sent by Arianespace this year, and the 19th since the rocket’s first flight in 2012.

The two launches of 2021 are a boost for the Vega program – an effort involving 10 European countries – which suffered a setback in November of last year when the rocket failed minutes after takeoff and disintegrated.


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