For an unusually busy period for rocket launches, Arianespace on Wednesday launched a Vega rocket carrying 53 microsatellites, nanosatellites and CubeSat in its daybed rideshare mission for light satellites.
The mission was underway at 6:52 pm PT (10:52 pm local time) at the European Space Agency’s spaceport in French Guiana at a cost north-east of South Guiana.
If you missed #VegaWatch the liftoff, “instant replays” video from the spaceport in French Guiana and join the excitement of the flight to Arienspace # VV16. pic.twitter.com/67bgVJl29V
– Stephen Israel (@arianespaceceo) 3 September 2020
The mission had faced a series of delays since March 2020 due to adverse weather conditions and disruptions caused by the coronavirus epidemic. But the launch was finally given a green light on Wednesday night.
The 53 satellites belong to 21 companies from 13 countries and will be used for various missions related to earth observation, telecommunications, science, technology and education.
The mission saw the first use of a new dispenser called the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS), which is capable of deploying multiple satellites at once. The SSMS dispenser includes a low hexagonal section for up to six nanosatellites or a dozen CubeSat deployers, and an upper section for microsatellites, minisatlites, and smaller satellites. It was developed by the Italian aerospace firm Avio in partnership with European Space Agency (ESA) and is manufactured by the Czech firm SAB Aerospace.
Arianspace and Rideshare Mission
French firm Arianspace was founded in 1980 as the world’s first commercial launch provider and has since deployed about 700 satellites into orbit, of which around 200 have been in the last three years alone.
Until now, Arianspace customers wishing to deploy smaller satellites had to rely on additional capacity to allow them to ride “piggyback” with the primary satellite, but the wait for such opportunities may be long. The smallest raidsharing model deals with this.
By entering this lucrative and rapidly expanding business – where multiple satellites are launched simultaneously to multiple companies, resulting in reduced costs – Arianspace will compete with others including SpaceX and Rocket Lab.
SpaceX began taking the rideshare application earlier this year, with the deployment of the small satellite starting at $ 1 million – a portion of the million dollars normally charged for booking the entire launch. It had its first rideshare mission in June 2020. On the other hand, Rocket Lab achieved its latest start earlier this week and plans to increase the frequency of its mission.
With its European connection, Arianspace hopes to attract business from companies in the region looking to deploy small satellites in space.
Renato Lafranconi of the ESA said Wednesday’s mission “heralds a new era in rideshare opportunities for small satellites and Europe’s space to serve European institutions, strengthen our space industry and grow our economy.” Reflects our commitment to reach capabilities. “
Arianspace is currently working on the Vegas C, a more powerful version of the original Vega rocket that will provide better cost competition for customers when it goes into service over the next few years.