Arianespace’s Vega rocket successfully launched Turkey’s first governmental satellite for Earth observation. The launch of the Göktürk-1A satellite occurred on schedule with a T-0 of 13:51 GMT on Monday, lifting off from launch pad ELA-1 at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana – ahead of a 57 minute ride to orbit.
The four-stage launcher is tailored to carry the growing number of small scientific spacecraft and other lighter-weight payloads under development or planned worldwide.
During her early career, she has proven her versatility by successfully lofting a range of spacecraft into orbit.
By offering configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites, Vega is expected to be an integral part of the Arianespace family, alongside the workhorse Ariane 5, Soyuz launcher and the future Ariane 6 rocket.
Ariane 6 will see Vega evolve into the Vega-C, which is set to debut in 2018.
Arianespace started work on Vega back in 2003 – as much as the origins of the concept range back to the 1990s – with ELV SpA (Italy) the lead manufacturer.
Vega utilizes a P80 advanced solid propellant first stage motor, featuring a novel filament-wound casing structure, utilizing new-generation, high-quality production techniques.
Vega’s P80 is one of the largest, most powerful one-piece solid-fuel stages ever built. Sized at just under 11 meters tall, this propulsion system has a 3-meter diameter and weighs in at approximately 95 tons. Shuttle – and SLS – Solid Rocket Motors are created via the assembly of segments.
The second and third stages – designated Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9, respectively – also use solid propellant motors, while the launcher is topped off by the bi-propellant liquid upper stage (called AVUM – Attitude and Vernier Upper Module).
Although the debut launch was originally targeting 2007, the first mission – designated VV01 per Arianespace’s system – enjoyed a successful launch, carrying nine satellites into space during its February 12, 2012 mission.
The success qualified the overall Vega system, including the vehicle, the ground infrastructure and operations, from the launch campaign to the payload separation and disposal of the upper module.
In particular, the mission demonstrated the vehicle’s performance and payload services.
Vega’s most important mission so far was the successful launch of the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV). ESA recently announced that program will also evolve into the Space Rider vehicle.
For Monday’s launch, the mission involved the Göktürk-1A observation satellite, managed within the scope of a turnkey contract with Telespazio as prime contractor for the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries of Turkey.
Liftoff of Vega from the Spaceport’s SLV launch site occurred exactly 10:51:44 a.m., local time in French Guiana on December 5 (13:51:44, Universal Time), with the launcher carrying a total payload of approximately 1,140 kg.
During Flight VV08, Vega’s liquid bipropellant upper stage – called the Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) – was tasked with two burns before GÖKTÜRK-1 was released.
The Göktürk-1 satellite has a dry weight of about 1,000 kg and a design life of seven years. Its observation payload includes a high resolution optical instrument and an onboard X-band digital imaging system to handle data compression, storage and downloading.
From its sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude lower than 700 km, the satellite’s revisit time over Turkey will be less than two days.
The mission was the vehicle’s fifth mission at the service of Earth observation.
The Göktürk-1 program is managed by Telespazio as prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space, which is responsible for the satellite, and local industrial partners including Tai A.S., Aselsan A.S., Tubitak Uekae, Roketsan A.S. and TR Tecnoloji.
(Images via Arianespace).