Vega rocket launches with Airbus observation satellite, miniature CubeSats

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A European Vega rocket was launched Monday night from French Guiana with an Earth observation satellite and four miniature “Cubesats”.

It marked the Vega’s second launch this year, a crucial part of Europe’s ambitions to compete with competitors like Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the booming commercial aerospace market.

The rocket was launched at 10:47 p.m. (7:17 a.m. IST) from the Guiana Spaceport in Kourou and successfully delivered the satellites in just under two hours.

After years of development and testing, the LEDSAT CubeSat is finally in the #space!
Take off: 03:47 CEST
???? ep availability: 05:31 CEST✅
????????? Antenna: 06:20 CEST
Radio amateurs, now is the time to hear LEDSAT. More about the start and how to follow it: https://t.co/eed1OveGtu pic.twitter.com/tU5QOh4Vpe

– ESA Education (@ESA__Education) August 17, 2021

Its main cargo was a high-resolution satellite, the second of four for a new Earth observation constellation operated by Airbus. The first was launched into orbit by a Vega rocket in April.

According to Airbus, the constellation Pleiades Neo will offer a high-resolution image of the earth for military or civil purposes such as disaster relief.

Vegas operator Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, in which Airbus owns half.

The newest Vega also carried four miniature satellites known as “Cubesats”.

One of them will be part of a constellation of satellites developed by the French start-up Unseenlabs, which specializes in monitoring maritime traffic.

The remaining three cubesats are from the European Space Agency for scientific and technological demonstration purposes.

Monday’s launch was the second Vega sent by Arianespace that year and the 19th since the rocket’s maiden flight in 2012.

The two launches in 2021 are a boost to the Vega program – an effort involving 10 European countries – which suffered a setback in November last year when the rocket failed and disintegrated minutes after launch.

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