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Initial Launcher Assembly is Completed for Arianespace’s Vega Mission with LISA Pathfinder

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
October 27, 2015
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Initial Launcher Assembly is Completed for Arianespace’s Vega Mission with LISA Pathfinder
Vega’s AVUM upper stage is shown during its integration at the Spaceport. At left, the module is hoisted to the upper levels of Vega’s protective mobile gantry, then moved into position for installation atop the launcher’s three solid propellant stages (photos at right). Credit: Arianespace.

he sixth Vega to be launched from French Guiana has completed its basic assembly at the Spaceport, readying this light-lift vehicle to receive Europe’s LISA Pathfinder scientific spacecraft for an Arianespace mission in December.
Vega’s build-up was performed on the Spaceport’s ZLV launch pad, with the vehicle protected by a mobile gantry. The initial assembly was accomplished when Vega’s AVUM (Attitude and Vernier Upper Module) upper stage was integrated atop the launcher’s three lower solid-propellant stages. The AVUM uses liquid bi-propellant for primary maneuvering, along with cold gas for attitude control.

With this assembly activity achieved, Vega is now ready to receive its LISA Pathfinder payload for the December 2 launch, which is designated Flight VV06 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system. The probe was developed in a European Space Agency (ESA) program and is designed to test critical concepts and technologies related to the detection of gravitational waves – the ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Vega to place LISA Pathfinder on its way to the L1 Lagrange point

Built under the responsibility of prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space, LISA Pathfinder is to be placed by Vega in an initial elliptical Earth orbit. The spacecraft’s own propulsion module will be used to reach the operational orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L1) – located approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

The Vega launch vehicle entered service in February 2012, and its five missions conducted to date from French Guiana have orbited a full range of payloads – from Earth imaging satellites and climate change observation platforms to technology demonstrators and an experimental spaceplane.

Vega is tailored to accommodate scientific, institutional, governmental and commercial satellites, joining Arianespace’s medium-lift Soyuz and heavy-lift Ariane 5 launchers in side-by-side operations from the Spaceport. The development of Vega was performed in a multinationally-financed European Space Agency program, with launcher’s design authority and prime contractor role performed by Italy’s ELV company – a joint venture of Avio and the Italian Space Agency.

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