The Proba‑V primary payload is a 138,2 kg satellite built by Qinetiq Space Belgium.
“With the launch of this third Proba satellite, ESA’s small satellite series has come of age,” notes Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management.
“This flight affirms ESA’s capacity to provide concepts and flexible mission designs that address specific needs in a short time. Proba‑V will be an operational satellite as soon as it is commissioned, supplying data to an eagerly waiting community.
“In addition, it continues the tradition of being a technology demonstrator for innovative technology that will benefit the wider European space community for years to come.”
Proba‑V is based on the platform flown on two previous ESA missions and carries the Vegetation imager to map global vegetation cover every two days, as a follow-on to the first generation of Vegetation imagers on France’s Spot-4 and -5 satellites.
Proba-V is flying in the same orbit as Spot-5 in order to take over from the ageing satellite on its retirement next year. Vegetation is a high-technology optical imager designed to provide 350 m-resolution imagery in four visible and infrared bands with an impressive 2250 km swath width that will allow daily coverage of all areas within 35–75ºN and 35–56ºS. These data will be processed and provided to a wide community of international users, including the European Commission.
In addition to this primary payload, Proba also hosts a series of technology payloads such as a receiver to detect aircraft in flight around the globe, a communications amplifier based on the latest gallium nitride technology, a novel pair of radiation monitors and a photonics experiment testing fibre optics for space.
More information on Proba can be found at:
VNREDSat-1A (Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment, Disaster Satellite) is a 115,3 kg commercial remote sensing satellite built by Astrium for Vietnam’s Academy of Sciences and Technologies. Its launch was contracted through Arianespace in January.
ESTCube-1 is Estonia’s first satellite. This 1.3 kg CubeSat was designed and built by students from the University of Tartu with a contribution from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. It will deploy a 10 m-long tether to demonstrate electrostatic manoeuvring through the plasma flow, which could lead to electrostatic solar sails for propellantless interplanetary travel.
As technology advances allow satellites to shrink, demand is increasing for smaller satellites, in particular for scientific and Earth observation missions. As an affordable response to European institutional needs and to maintain its competitiveness in the world’s launch services market, Europe has developed the Vega launch system.
Vega is able to inject payloads of up to 1.5 tonne into low polar orbits at altitudes of 300–1500 km. With a length of 30 m and a diameter of 3 m, it has three solid-propellant stages (P80, Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9) and a liquid-propellant stage (AVUM: Attitude and Vernier Upper Module). Unlike most small launchers, it is able to place multiple payloads in orbit.
The VERTA programme covers a batch of five missions to demonstrate the flexibility of the system, promoting the smooth introduction of the vehicle for commercial exploitation.
Seven ESA Member States (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden) are contributing to the Vega programme. The industrial prime contractor is ELV SpA, 70% of which is owned by Avio SpA and 30% by Italy’s ASI space agency.
The flight manifest for Vega is currently: Kazakhstan’s DZZ-HR high-resolution remote sensing satellite (2014), the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle reentry demonstrator (2014), the LISA Pathfinder mission to demonstrate the technologies for the future Laser Interferometer Space Antenna gravity-wave detection mission (2015), and the Aeolus satellite to map Earth’s wind profiles (2015).