This week, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its new rocket, the Vega-C, on its maiden flight. An update to the previous Vega rocket, the new version has a liftoff mass of 210 tonnes and delivers 4,500 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust, meaning it can carry around 800 kilograms of payload more than its previous version.
Vega-C’s maiden flight is scheduled for Wednesday, July 13 at 7:13 a.m. ET (4:30 a.m. PT), in a mission called Flight VV21. The launch will take place from the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana, located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. The launch will be broadcast live by ESA, and we have the details below on how to watch.
The new rocket will be used to deliver seven payloads into orbit, with a larger satellite called LARES-2 and six smaller CubeSats. LARES-2 is an Italian Space Agency scientific research satellite that will study a phenomenon called the frame drag effect. This effect is caused by mass and energy distributions that distort spacetime, as described by the theory of relativity.
The six CubeSats come from European countries, including Italy, Slovenia and France, and will be used to study topics such as sensing biomolecules, growing plants in microgravity and collecting data on Earth’s magnetosphere.
To carry these payloads, the new rocket requires launch configuration changes from previous Vega rockets. “Vega-C features major improvements from Vega, both in the rocket and its ground infrastructure,” Renato Lafranconi, Vega programs manager, said in a statement. statement. “We have developed a new configuration with significant changes to many features of a proven concept, but the aim is to make major improvements in performance and competitiveness.”
Launch coverage begins at 6:45 a.m. ET (3:45 a.m. PT) on Wednesday, July 13. The live stream will be available on ESA Web TV, which you can watch here.
To get an idea of what the launch process will be like and what each stage of the mission entails, ESA has created an animated preview of the flight showing the process from rocket deployment, through liftoff, stage and fairing separations, and the deployment first of the LARES-2 satellite and then of the six CubeSats. You can look there here on YouTube.