On August 1 2017, the European space launcher VEGA soared to space on its tenth consecutive and successful launch from Kourou (French Guiana) since 2012. It correctly placed two Earth observation satellites into orbit: OPSAT-300 and Venus.
ONESTAGETOSPACE reports about this well deserved commercial success because we take Vega as a program that both inspires us and invites us to beat it on cost per launch, payload, versatility and complexity.
According to their press release, this is the fourth launch in the last 10 months [and the second one in 2017, ed.] a clear demonstration of the Vega launcher’s reliability and flexibility. Built in the Avio production plant near Rome, it complements the family of European launchers and can orbit satellites of up to 2,000 kg. It is designed to transfer satellites into low Earth orbit (between 300 and 1,500 km from Earth) for institutional and scientific purposes. It was designed and built by AVIO through its subsidiary ELV (30% owned by ASI, the Italian Space Agency).
According to Wikipedia, development costs for the Vega rocket were €710 million, with ESA spending an additional €400 million to sponsor five development flights between 2012 and 2014. Commercial launch cost have been estimated at €32 million including Arianespace’s marketing and service costs or €25 million for a rocket alone, assuming launch rate of 2 per year. By increasing flight rate up to 4 per year price of an each individual launch vehicle will drop to €22 million.
ONESTAGETOSPACE’s MARVEL can deliver at least 12 metric tons for half the amount, due to a different design philosophy.
Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo, Roberto Battiston, President of the Italian Space Agency and Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, are very upbeat about their joint success which they credit to the simplicity, vertical integration, excellent European collaboration and the competitiveness of the whole value chain:
“Vega was conceived with a simple architecture based on solid propulsion, which is inherently simpler than liquid propulsion as it is made of much fewer parts,” he said, adding that Avio has been building solid rocket motors for more than five decades and has the full manufacturing process vertically integrated. “This factor is certainly responsible for a good part of Vega’s reliability.”
“10 missions, 10 successes: Vega has achieved a level of performance and reliability that is unmatched. We are proud of this result, the first achieved by Vega following the Stock Exchange listing, which attests not only to the great reliability of our products but also to the effectiveness of our collaboration with Arianespace and with our European industrial partners”.
“We have been successful in our efforts to develop new technologies and increasingly performant launchers to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated needs of our customers,” Ranzo added. “In Colleferro (Rome) we have just completed the first booster case for the P120, the largest monolithic solid-propellant motor made entirely of carbon fibre that will equip Vega C and Ariane 6, the new European launchers that will fly in 2019 and 2020″.
“The successes achieved by the Vega launcher are driven by the capacity to innovate, do research and identify competitive and reliable solutions for the launcher market”, Roberto Battiston said, President of the Italian Space Agency. “Satellite infrastructures are growing and will be increasingly pervasive: it has been paramount to develop a family of European launchers able to ensure access to space and the competitiveness of the whole space value chain. In this context, Avio’s role and capabilities represent a certainty”, Battiston concluded.
“We are very proud to share this tenth consecutive success of the light-weight vehicle Vega from the Guiana Space Center alongside our industrial prime contractor Avio” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “Our partnership is key to the success of Vega, which, launch after launch, stands as the benchmark launcher of its class and whose excellence and versatility allow us to offer our customers increasingly competitive launch solutions.”
It is true, the 3 solid rocket motor stages, together with a liquid propellant upper stage, seemingly reduce the part count and reduce cost. Still, the stages are built all around Europe at different plants and have to be integrated in Italy before they are shipped off to French Guyana, an ocean away. This broadens the definition of cost reduction through ‘vertical’ integration but it is still better than past programs.
ONESTAGETOSPACE only uses one liquid propellant upper stage, with one drop tank, built at the same plant. VEGA needs EUR 22 million per launch for 2 metric tons, but we can do better, cheaper and offer reusability with a much larger payload.
For more information about VEGA, visit www.avio.com
Both satellites, precisely placed into orbit by Vega, will transmit data and images for the Earth observation and the assessment of the impacts of climate change on vegetation. OPSAT-3000 is an Italian-Israeli satellite for Earth observation resulting from the cooperation between Telespazio and IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries). Venus is a French-Israeli satellite for Earth observation based on a cooperative venture between CNES (the French Space Agency) and ISA (the Israel Space Agency).
ONESTAGETOSPACE is a genuine space effort seeking funds to further develop and build its MARVELOUS reusable vehicle. An innovative design allows us to decimate the operational cost of both orbital and interplanetary crewed missions, from surface to surface, over even the best industry competitors. This maturing site allows us to talk about our vehicle and to share stories about projects and people that or who inspire us on our long journey. If there is a story you feel we should cover, or a person that would like to be interviewed, let us know. Subscribe, like, share or support us with time, money or advice to help bring this project to fruition. It is ONESTAGETOSPACE, and you can become part of the adventure.