Vega was originally designed to loft satellites ranging from 300 to 2,500 kg. The coming flight will be the first to demonstrate a new technology for "ride-sharing" enabling more and smaller satellites to use the rocket to reach orbit. It will launch 53 micro and nanosatellites, of these seven microsatellites ranging from 15 kg to 150 kg and 46 smaller CubeSats.
"Sunday will be an exciting day for us when a lot of the hardware we built during the past couple of years will be sent into space. And this launch will mark the start of a very exciting chapter for the European space industry, firmly establishing Vega as a reference for the launch of small satellites. As a manufacturer of Cubesats we are delighted to be part of this important step in the development of this launcher" said AAC Clyde Space CEO Luis Gomes.
Vega will carry two satellites manufactured by AAC Clyde Space. PICASSO, a 3U CubeSat built for the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BISA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). The satellite is an earth observation mission that will demonstrate a scientific capacity for atmospheric remote sensing with VISION (a hyper-spectral imager) and in situ measurements with the Sweeping Langmuir Probe. The launcher will also carry TARS, built for Kepler Communication. TARS will offer communication services for Internet of Things (IoT) and data backhaul applications.
Moreover, AAC Clyde Space has supplied key avionics to other spacecraft ride-sharing on the launch. Among these a Power Control and Distribution Unit (PCDU) and solar panels on Lux Space ESAIL satellite.
'"The launch of PICASSO is a very exciting moment that marks the beginning of a new era in the study of the Earth's atmosphere. Indeed, PICASSO will soon bring experimental evidence that CubeSats, and more generally small-sats, are now genuine scientific tools available to the Earth Observation community. Thanks to their small cost, which enables them to be deployed as a fleet, they will provide scientific-grade data with a high repetition rate and an unequaled ground coverage" said BIRA-IASB Project Manager Didier Pieroux.
"Kepler is looking forward to the successful commissioning of TARS and having its capacity added to our satellites already on orbit. All three of our pathfinder satellites have been built with AAC Clyde Space, and their success has enabled us to continue to execute against our Mission of building the internet in space." said Kepler Head of Satellite Programs & Launch, Jared Bottoms.