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Europe’s new space rocket Vega makes first flight

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A lightweight rocket aimed at securing Europe a stake in the market to launch small satellites lifted off from Kourou space base on itsmaiden flight on Monday.

Vega, whose development has cost more than a billion dollars, raced into the sky from the launch site in French Guiana in a streak of light, carrying a test payload of nine satellites, mission controllers reported.

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The 81-minute mission is a “qualification” flight, aimed at proving a rocket that incorporates several important innovations, engineers said.

“The trajectory is normal,” flight supervisor Aimee Cippe said after the first three stages, driven by solid fuel, separated on schedule and the final stage, which uses liquid propellant, ignited as expected.

Thirty metres (100 feet) long and three metres in diameter, Vega is designed to hoist multiple payloads loads ranging from 300 kilos (660 pounds) to 2.5 tonnes into various orbits from 300 to 1,500 kilometres (190-940 miles) depending on mass.

The lightweight launcher complements the heavyweight Ariane 5, capable in its beefed-up version of lifting more than 20 tonnes, and the mid-range Soyuz, the Russian-Soviet veteran deployed to Kourou last year under a deal between Russia and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of Arianespace, which commercialises ESA’s launchers, said the outlook for Vega was good.

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Its main competitors are Russian ballistic missiles, transformed to carry satellites in a swords-to-ploughshares scheme, and all of these Cold War launchers will be used up in the coming years, he said in a webcast.

“Vega is going to be extremely important for Arianespace because in just a few years it’s going to be the only launcher of its capability on the market,” Le Gall said.

Development of Vega dates back to 1998. It has cost 776 million euros (over one billion dollars), of which Italy has contributed nearly 60 percent.

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Vega uses four stages to propel a small payload into low orbit, a design that is unusual in a small rocket. Its stages are also made out of wrapped bandages of carbon fibre, in order to reduce weight.

Three of these stage use solid fuel, while the fourth and final stage, called AVUM, uses liquid fuel. It will carry out three “burns” in order to slot the payloads into their various orbits.

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The main payload on Monday was a tungsten sphere called Lares, which is designed to study the so-called Lense-Thirring effect.

This is a component of Einstein’s theory of general relativity which says that as a large mass such as the Earth rotates, it drags space and time around with it.

To measure the theorised effect, Lares is studded with reflectors on which ground-based laser beams will be trained to measure the satellite’s time and distance as it zips around the globe.

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The other principal satellite, AlmaSat-1, will test new civilian technologies in Earth observation.

The rest of the payload is taken up by seven so-called picosatellites, essentially cubes each weighing less than a kilo (2.2 pounds), in which European universities have each packed a separate experiment.


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California lawmaker who chaired Republican Assembly caucus leaving GOP — to become an independent: report

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On Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the former Assembly Minority Leader, is leaving the Republican Party and registering as No Party Preference.

"Instead of focusing on solutions for the big problems that we've got, we focused on winning elections," said Mayes in his announcement. "For me, I'm at the point in my life where I'm done with gamesmanship."

Mayes, a controversial figure who was implicated in an affair with a fellow public official, represents Yucca Valley. He is the second Republican Assemblyman this year to leave the party, after Brian Maienschein of San Diego, who Maienschein of San Diego.

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‘Quantum physics generator’ incident in Ohio results in evacuation — hazmat found no radiation

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Authorities in Columbus, Ohio evacuated dozens of homes after a man called 911 to report being burned by a

"Firefighters say nothing threatening was found in a northwest Columbus garage," WCMH-TV reported. "According to firefighters, a man called and reported that he received ‘RF burns’ while building some sort of ‘quantum physics generator’ in a garage. The man used words like ‘particle accelerator,’ ‘alpha rays,’ and ‘radiation’ while describing how he was burned."

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Trump spoke with Giuliani on unsecured phones that were vulnerable to Russian surveillance: report

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On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump has communicated with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani via unsecured and unencrypted phone lines that are potentially vulnerable to interception and monitoring by Russian intelligence officials and other hostile foreign powers.

"Trump is not identified by name in the House phone records, but investigators said they suspect he may be a person with a blocked number listed as '-1' in the files," stated the report. "And administration officials said separately that Trump has communicated regularly with Giuliani on unsecured lines."

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