A Vega rocket, the smallest of the European launchers, placed five satellites in orbit on the night of Monday 16 to Tuesday 17 August. “More than ever, Vega is establishing itself as a pillar of the autonomy of Europe’s access to space”, commented Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace.

The rocket took off from the space center in Kourou, Guyana, at 10:47 p.m. (3:47 a.m. KST), for a mission that was to last nearly two hours.

A little less than an hour after takeoff, the Pléiades Neo 4 satellite was placed in orbit at an altitude of 625 kilometers. This very high resolution optical satellite, weighing just under a tonne, was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space Intelligence, which will operate it.

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This cutting-edge piece of equipment is the second of four satellites in the Pleiades Neo constellation – the first has been in orbit since April 28. With unparalleled precision, it should allow a resolution of 30 centimeters for a global coverage of the Earth. In addition to this precision, the constellation must provide increased reactivity that can be reduced to half an hour in an emergency, which opens up possibilities, particularly in the field of geolocation applications and cartography.

Four nanosatellites

The next satellites in the series are to be launched by the future Vega C, from 2022. Vega has also put four nanosatellites into orbit. Three will be used by the European Space Agency: Ledsat for optical tracking of satellites in low orbit; Radcube for space weather measurements; Sunstorm for the observation of X-rays emitted during solar flares. The fourth, BRO-4, is for the French start-up Unseenlabs. It is part of the BRO satellite constellation intended for maritime traffic surveillance based on the electromagnetic signature of ships.

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This is the second launch of a Vega rocket since the start of the year for Arianespace and the nineteenth since the launcher’s first flight, in 2012. It is also the third launch of the year at Kourou, intervened fifteen days after the launch of an Ariane 5.

The World with AFP



www.lemonde.fr

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