At 0121 GMT on 23 June 2015, a Vega rocket was launched by Arianespace, from its Kourou launch site in French Guiana. Aboard the launch vehicle was the Sentinel 2A (Optical) spacecraft of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus environmental programme. Built by Airbus Defence and Space GmbH in Friedrichshafen, the 1,140kg spacecraft will be used to monitor crops, forests, pollution and other environmental points of interest using its suite of sensors. Its main instrument is a multispectral camera with a resolution of 10-20m with a swath width of 290km.
Vega, as the smallest launch vehicle in the Arianespace stable, is expensive at over US$36 million a time, but is rapidly gaining a reputation for “get you there” reliability with five launch successes out of five to date. However, while this launch was a successful satellite delivery, one thing went slightly awry. The AVUM upper stage did not deorbit itself as planned but will nevertheless re-enter naturally within a few years.