Europe’s new launch vehicle, Vega, debuted at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on Monday, the European Space Agency’s representative in Russia, Rene Pichel, said.
The 30 meter Vega, which lifted off at 7:00 a.m. local time (10:00 GMT), is carrying nine spacecraft.
The payload consists of two Italian satellites - ASI’s LARES laser relativity satellite and the University of Bologna’s ALMASat-1 - as well as seven picosatellites provided by European universities: e-Star (Italy), Goliat (Romania), MaSat-1 (Hungary), PW-Sat (Poland), Robusta (France), UniCubeSat GG (Italy) and Xatcobeo (Spain).
Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2,500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers.
Arianespace started work on the vehicle in 2003 with ELV SpA (Italy) being the lead manufacturer.