Follow the major events during the launch of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder gravitational probe testbed, from liftoff of its Vega rocket booster from French Guiana through deployment into its initial orbit.
T+00:00:00 – Liftoff
The Vega rocket’s first stage P80 solid rocket motor ignites and powers the 98-foot-tall booster off the launch pad 0.3 seconds later. The P80 first stage motor generates a maximum of 683,000 pounds of thrust.
T+00:00:31 – Mach 1
The Vega rocket surpasses the speed of sound as it soars on an easterly trajectory from French Guiana. The rocket will reach Max-Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure, at T+plus 53 seconds.
T+00:01:53 – First stage separation
Having consumed its 194,000 pounds (88 metric tons) of solid propellant, the 9.8-foot-diameter (3-meter) P80 first stage motor is jettisoned at an altitude of about 33 miles (53 kilometers). The second stage Zefiro 23 motor will ignite a second later to begin its 103-second firing.
T+00:03:37 – Second stage separation
The Zefiro 23 motor burns out and jettisons.
T+00:03:49 – Third stage ignition
Moving at a velocity of nearly 9,000 mph, or 4 kilometers per second, the Vega rocket’s Zefiro 9 motor ignites for the third stage burn.
T+00:04:03 – Fairing separation
The Vega’s 8.5-foot-diameter (2.6-meter) payload fairing is released as the rocket ascends into space.
T+00:06:30 – Third stage separation
The Zefiro 9 third stage shuts down and separates, having accelerated the rocket to nearly orbital velocity.
T+00:07:29 – First AVUM ignition
The Vega rocket’s Attitude and Vernier Module, or fourth stage, ignites for the first time. The AVUM burns hydrazine fuel with an RD-869 engine provided by Yuzhnoye of Ukraine.
T+00:16:23 – AVUM first cutoff
The Vega’s AVUM fourth stage is turned off after an 8-minute, 54-second burn, beginning an 85-minute coast until the engine is ignited again. The first AVUM burn places the rocket and its payloads on a ballistic trajectory.
T+01:41:19 – Second AVUM ignition
The AVUM fires a second time for a 94-second burn to put LISA Pathfinder into its preliminary orbit.
T+01:42:53 – AVUM second cutoff
The AVUM engine shuts down after reaching an elliptical orbit with a high point of 957 miles (1,540 kilometers), a low point of 128 miles (207 kilometers), and an inclination of 5.96 degrees.
T+01:45:33 – LISA Pathfinder separation
The 4,202-pound (1,906-kilogram) LISA Pathfinder spacecraft deploys from the AVUM fourth stage of the Vega rocket. A ground station in Kourou could acquire the first signals from LISA Pathfinder to confirm its health about two minutes later.
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