Today, Arianespace’s first Vega mission of the year will lift off from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, with the optical observation satellite Pleiades Neo 3.
The first of four satellites in an advanced Earth observation constellation, Pleiades Neo 3 was wholly funded and manufactured by its operator, Airbus.
The 18th mission of Europe’s Vega light launcher will also orbit an observation microsatellite for the Norwegian space agency, Norsat-3, plus four cubesats for the operators Eutelsat, NanoAvionics/Aurora Insight and Spire. These small satellites will be carried as auxiliary payloads on the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) deployment system.
The SSMS rideshare service, developed with the support of the European space industry, was first deployed by Arianespace in September 2020. Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), Arianespace’s SSMS service will soon be joined by the Multiple Launch Service (MLS), a similar offering that uses the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.
According to Arianespace, the production of the Vega launcher and preparations for mission VV18 were overseen by Avio, industrial prime contractor for the Vega launcher, under the direction of Arianespace and ESA. The company says that they followed all recommendations issued by the Independent Inquiry Commission set up after the failure of the 17th Vega mission (VV17) last November.