A Vega rocket fired into orbit Thursday night from French Guiana with Italy’s PRISMA hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellite, commencing a busy period for the Vega launcher program as engineers prepare for the debut of the more powerful Vega-C booster in early 2020 and study a lighter variant to better compete in the growing smallsat launch market.
Giulio Ranzo is the chief executive of Avio, the Italian company responsible for building the Vega rocket. Ranzo recently spoke with Spaceflight Now about the Vega rocket’s increasing launch rate, the debut of the new Vega C booster in 2020, and future plans to evolve the Vega design to compete with commercial microsatellite launchers.
A Chinese Long March 2D rocket successfully delivered seven satellites into a 300-mile-high orbit Friday, boosting international missions to measure seismic signals that could help predict future earthquakes, take detailed imagery of planet Earth and test compact camera, propulsion and radio technology.
The Italian government has decided to launch two next-generation radar reconnaissance satellites on Soyuz and Vega rockets from French Guiana, and a European Space Agency telescope to study the structures of planets around other stars will likely ride to orbit as a co-passenger on one of the missions.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has continued its survey of the dwarf planet Ceres this year, discovering rock-bound ice hidden just beneath the airless world’s rugged surface and a handful of icy outcrops inside craters in the northern hemisphere, raising hopes that Ceres could have once held a buried habitable ocean of liquid water.