On Tuesday 1 September, Vega will lift off from Europe’s spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre (CSG) carrying 53 satellites for 21 customers on the proof-of-concept flight of the new Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS).
The launch will be the fourth this year from the CSG and the first for Vega, which will be making its 16th flight since entering service at the launch base in 2012.
The SSMS project was proposed by Arianespace and developed with support from the European Space Agency (ESA) and Avio. It is designed to launch multiple small satellites from 1 kg to 500 kg to share launch costs between customers. The satellite dispenser was developed by Avio under ESA leadership and built by Czech company SAB Aerospace. Satellite integration was performed for the first time in Europe and the European Union contributed funding to this proof-of-concept flight.
The SSMS dispenser is composed of different modular components that can be assembled as needed in building-block style:
-- An upper portion with a central column, tower or hexagon, and a supporting platform, adjustable rods and dividers.
-- A lower portion, also using a hexagon-shaped module (Hexamodule), accommodating several cubesat deployers.
For this flight, Vega will be carrying seven microsatellites (from 15 kg to 150 kg) on the upper portion and 46 smaller cubesats on the lower portion’s Hexamodule. The mission for 21 customers from 13 countries will serve a range of applications including Earth observation, telecommunications, science, technology development and education. The lift-off mass will be 756 kg and the satellites will be placed into two Sun-synchronous orbits.
The seven microsatellites on the payload are:
-- An experimental telecommunications satellite for Spaceflight Inc., built by Maxar
-- GHGSat-C1, an air quality monitoring satellite for GHGSAT Inc., built by SFL
-- NEMO-HD, the first Slovenian microsatellite for SPACE-SI, built by SFL and SPACE-SI
-- UPMSat-2, an educational satellite for UPM, built by IRD/UPM
-- ESAIL, developed under ESA’s SAT-AIS programme, for ExactEarth, built by LuxSpace
-- ION SCV LUCAS, capable of transporting a batch of cubesats and deploying them individually into precise orbital slots, for Planet Labs Inc., built by D-Orbit SpA
-- NewSat, a commercial satellite with a high-resolution visible and near-infrared imaging instrument, for Satellogic, built by Satellogic.