ESA's Vega rocket demonstration reports success after months of delays

Last Wednesday, the European Space Agency successfully launched its Vega rocket from French Guiana after around a year of delays. The launch took place from Europe's Spaceport and involved deploying 53 small satellites into orbit — a mission that ended up a complete success, according to the ESA. The space agency says this mission demonstrated that Vega and the wider Small Spacecraft Mission Service dispenser is capable of offering launch services to customers.

The Vega launch took place on September 3 from the EU's Spaceport, sending the rocket and its satellite payload into space. This was the first flight demonstrating Vega's rideshare service, according to the ESA, one that involved the aforementioned Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS). This launch ultimately served to show that Europe is capable of offering its own dedicated launch service.

As with others in the growing industry, the Small Spacecraft Mission Service aims to launch small satellites for paying customers, doing so on a routine basis. This enables everything from governments to academic institutions and private companies to develop their own satellites and pay to have them shipped into space using an existing 'rideshare' service.

ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander said:

It is back to business at Europe's Spaceport and we are proud that Vega returns to flight to prove a new dedicated launch service. Europe's first Small Spacecraft Mission Service opens the door for routine affordable access to space for small satellites – a new approach which shows we are addressing new market needs.

The ESA explains that the SSMS is a modular and lightweight structure that dispenses the satellite payloads into space. Because the dispenser can be configured shortly before launch to accommodate the unique aspects of each payload, ESA says it will be a convenient and affordable option for customers looking to launch small satellites, which can weigh up to around 150kg each.