HomeTechnologyEurope's upgraded Vega space launcher makes its maiden flight

Europe’s upgraded Vega space launcher makes its maiden flight

BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency on Wednesday celebrated the first flight of its Vega-C rocket, which is designed to offer more value to customers in the increasingly competitive business of launching satellites into orbit.

Vega-C is an upgrade to the Vega rocket that made its debut in 2012 as a specialized launcher for carrying small payloads into space. The new rocket can carry heavier payloads than its predecessor and burns less fuel.

ESA says Vega-C will be particularly useful for launching Earth-observing satellites, but it is also envisioned to be the carrier for Space Rider, an uncrewed robotic laboratory that will be the agency’s first reusable space vehicle.

The launch of the 35-meter (115-foot) rocket from French Guiana was twice delayed shortly before liftoff due to technical problems, but was successful on the third attempt.

Vega-C accelerates much faster than its big brother Ariane 5, ESA’s heavy workhorse launcher, reaching a speed of 16,000 kilometers per hour (nearly 10,000 mph) within two minutes of launch.

It launched six small cube-shaped mini-satellites and an Italian-made satellite called LARES-2, which looks like a giant disco ball, which will act as a target for a ground-based laser station.

The ESA chief has announced a series of ambitious new projects as Europe tries to compete with the United States, China and new private sector rivals in the growing space business.

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