Vega success assures Sentinel launches

Yesterday’s successful maiden flight of ESA’s new Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, opens a new set of launch services – including two of the Sentinel satellites for GMES.
According to contracts signed in December, Arianespace will launch Sentinel-2B and Sentinel-3B on this new light launcher. These launches are foreseen in 2014–15. The Sentinel missions are based on a constellation of two satellites to maximise coverage of Earth. The two to be launched on Vega are the second Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 satellites. Vega’s light launch capacity accommodates a wide range of satellites, from 300–2500 kg, into a wide range of orbits, from equatorial to Sun-synchronous. Vega will thus add to Europe’s set of launch services next to the Ariane 5 heavy-lifter and the Soyuz medium-class launcher already in service. Vega, at its maiden flight yesterday, carried nine satellites, seven of them built by European universities. Three of these were sponsored through ESA’s educational programme. CubeSats, were the first to be built in central and eastern Europe: PW-Sat from Poland, Goliat from Romania, and Masat-1 from Hungary, marking a milestone in participation of new EU Member States.