Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Vega Rocket Launches Earth-Observing Satellite for Morocco

The light-lift Vega ascends from the Spaceport's SLV launch complex with its MOHAMMED VI – A satellite passenger. Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace has successfully launched the MOHAMMED VI – A satellite dedicated for Earth observation for the Kingdom of Morocco. The satellite was developed by the consortium comprising Thales Alenia Space as system prime contractor and Airbus as co-prime. The launch took place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 10:42:31 p.m. (local time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

The MOHAMMED VI – A satellite will be used in particular for mapping and land surveying activities, regional development, agricultural monitoring, the prevention and management of natural disasters, monitoring changes in the environment and desertification.

With a mass at liftoff of 1,110 kg, MOHAMMED VI – A was maneuvered into its target Sun-synchronous orbit about 55 minutes into the mission after a series of burns of Vega’s upper stage.

Thales Alenia Space, as system prime contractor, supplied the payload, including the optical instrument, the image transmission subsystem, and the ground segment for image processing and production. Airbus, as satellite prime contractor, was in charge of its integration, as well as supplying the platform and the ground segment for mission planning and satellite control.

Including this latest mission, Arianespace has now orbited 64 Earth observation satellites for both government and commercial customers, in particular the European Copernicus program and the Eumetsat operator of meteorological satellites.

As the 11th consecutive success for Vega, Flight VV11 also is the 10th Arianespace launch since the beginning of 2017 and the third launch of Vega during the same period.

It also marks the second Vega mission by Arianespace using a new operational organization in conjunction with its partner Avio, industrial prime contractor for Vega. Avio now assumes responsibility for preparing the launcher until its liftoff (H0), while Arianespace maintains full responsibility for customer relations, as well as final countdown operations and the launch decision.

Vega C is the upgraded version of this launcher, slated for a first flight in 2019. Between June and September 2017, the first three launch contracts were booked for this launch vehicle with both commercial and institutional customers. Compared with the current version, Vega C will offer higher performance in terms of payload capacity (weight and volume), along with the operational flexibility to handle an even larger variety of missions (from nanosatellites to large optical and radar observation satellites), which will further boost the competitiveness of Arianespace’s launch services.

Arianespace now has a backlog of nine missions for Vega and Vega C; one-third are for European institutions and two-thirds are for export customers, clearly confirming the validity of its launch services offering for satellites in the under 1.5-metric-ton class.

Shortly after the announcement of the orbital injection of the MOHAMMED VI – A satellite, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Israël said: “On the occasion of this 11th consecutive success of the Vega launcher since its introduction at the Guiana Space Center, Arianespace is very proud to serve the Kingdom of Morocco for the first time. We are honored by Morocco’s confidence in the launching of the iconic satellite MOHAMMED VI-A dedicated for Earth observation. Congratulations to Thales Alenia Space, system prime contractor and to Airbus, co-prime of the satellite. Both are long-standing partners."

Vega is a 30 m-high, four-stage vehicle designed to accommodate small scientific and Earth observation payloads of 300–2,500 kg, depending on the orbit.


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