European Space Agency member states on Thursday committed nearly 12.5 billion euros ($13.8 billion) to fund ESA programs over the next three years, promising money to grow Europe’s fleet of satellites studying Earth’s changing climate, contribute to NASA-led lunar exploration efforts, and continue ESA’s participation in the International Space Station until 2030.
Engineers believe super-hot gas from burning solid propellant impinged on the structure of the second stage on a European Vega launcher during a failed flight in July, causing the vehicle to break apart minutes after liftoff from French Guiana with a reconnaissance satellite for the United Arab Emirates, the CEO of Italian rocket-maker Avio said Monday.
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.
The future participation of major segments of Britain’s space industry in Europe’s Galileo navigation system and Copernicus environmental network, two multibillion-dollar flagship programs with dozens of satellites, is sure to be a significant part of negotiations as the UK withdraws from the European Union, according to a member of the European Commission.
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.