Watch Vega’s Rideshare Launch Live This Weekend

Shown during the SSMS payload integration process for Arianespace’s Flight VV16 is the ION CubeSat carrier – a platform that will deploy 12 CubeSats after being placed in orbit by the Vega launcher. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Subject to favourable weather conditions, the soonest possible launch date for the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) proof-of-concept flight is Sunday 21 June from 02:36 BST/03:36 CEST (20 June at 22:51 local time in Kourou).

Please check here for updates.

Tune in to ESA Web TV to watch the return to flight of Vega on its debut rideshare mission dedicated to light satellites.

Vega will lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana carrying 53 satellites on its new dispenser called SSMS.

Vega’s return to flight follows the fast and efficient completion of corrective measures and actions carried out by industry with ESA in the lead, following recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry Commission which analysed the failure of Vega flight VV15 on 11 July 2019.

This is a proof-of-concept flight to demonstrate and validate a new rideshare launch service for small satellites. Developed by ESA, the SSMS dispenser is lightweight and has a modular design that can be configured to meet the requirements of the mission, securing anything from the smallest 1 kg CubeSats up to 500 kg minisatellites. There are 21 customers sharing this launch.

This new service is intended to grow space technologies in Europe by making it easier for those with light satellites to find convenient launch opportunities. Those riding together share the cost of launch, making it more affordable too. This flight is partly funded by the European Union under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Vega will release its 53 satellites progressively in a coordinated sequence in a Sun-synchronous orbit about 500 km above Earth. ESA has contributed to the development of four payloads on board – the 113 kg ESAIL microsatellite and three CubeSats: SimbaPICASSO and FSSCat which carries pioneering AI technology named Φ-sat-1.

This mission will last 124 minutes.

ESA Web TV Live Transmission (All Times CEST)

Watch live via ESA Web TV 03:36 – 04:54

Key moments:

03:51 – Liftoff

04:31 – Separation from Vega of the first batch of satellites

04:43 – Separation from Vega of the second batch of satellites including ESAIL

[End of live transmission at 04:54, continue to follow this launch on Twitter

05:32 – Separation from Vega of first CubeSat

05:36 – Final CubeSat separation

05:55 – End of the Vega mission

Follow online

Join the conversation online with the hashtag #VV16. 

For live updates follow @esa@vega_sts and @esa_sts