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Vietnamese satellite booked for second Vega launch

Posted: January 4, 2013

Vietnam's first Earth observation satellite will be launched in April on the second flight of Europe's Vega launcher, Arianespace announced Friday.

Photo of the first Vega rocket on the launch pad. Credit: ESA/S. Corvaja
The VNREDSat 1A satellite will be paired with the European Space Agency's Proba-V environmental payload for the launch, which will mark the first use of the launcher's Vespa dual-payload adapter.

Arianespace, the company responsible for commercial Vega launch services, signed the contract Friday with EADS Astrium, which is building the satellite for the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology.

The Vega rocket successfully completed its first launch in February 2012, delivering a laser ranging satellite and a cache of smaller payloads to orbit.

ESA's Proba-V environmental satellite was assigned last year to the second Vega launch. But Arianespace and ESA, which is managing the mission as a demonstration launch, did not disclose what other satellites would be carried on the second Vega flight.

With the addition of VNREDSat 1A, the April launch mark the first test the rocket's Vespa dual-payload adapter. Proba-V will ride in the upper position of the Vespa adapter, and VNREDSat 1A will sit in the lower position in the structure.

The Vega rocket will launch from the Guiana Space Center, a European-run spaceport in French Guiana.

The 352-pound Proba-V satellite will be released first in the Vega's launch sequence. Proba-V will fly in a sun-synchronous orbit 500 miles above Earth and monitor global vegetation growth.

The Vega's liquid-fueled upper stage will deploy the 264-pound VNREDSat 1A spacecraft in a 416-mile-high sun-synchronous orbit for its mission to collect high-resolution optical imagery.

The April launch is the first of five ESA-sponsored Vega demonstration flights to test the launcher's capabilities, set a operational production cadence, and improve customer service before Vega begins commercial missions.

The Italian-led Vega rocket project, developed at a cost of $1 billion, is aimed at providing small European government payloads an indigenous launcher capability, reducing Europe's reliance on Russian rockets to do the job.

Arianespace will assume commercial operations of the Vega rocket, which will join the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher and the Russian Soyuz rocket based at the Guiana Space Center.