The dawn of the next phase for the Vega launcher was approved and underwritten by the Ministerial Conference of ESA Member States held in Luxemburg in December 2014. The decision was driven by the intention of:
- boosting and improving Vega’s market placement
- reducing dependency on non-European sources
- making a proactive contribution to safeguarding European industrial engineering skills
- being in a position to deliver a better response to the long term needs of institutions
The new configuration of the Vega launcher is called the Vega C (Consolidation) and will offer an improved performance by up to 2300 kg in LEO (+60%). The maiden flight is scheduled for 2019. The Vega C is expected to be even more attractive than its current version, building on the experience and knowhow of the Avio team.
Avio will be responsible for the entire launcher, and of the P120C Solid Rocket Motor, in cooperation with Ariane Group. The P120C was derived from the P80 Vega launcher first stage and will be manufactured with carbon fiber prepreg, material and filament winding technology. It will carry about 143 tonnes of solid propellant, but the P120C was also designed to be used as a lift-off booster for the new Ariane 6 in order to guarantee absolute synergy between the European launchers. Avio will also handle the Z40 SRM, part of the Vega C configuration as the second stage propulsive system. Its design benefits from the experience acquired during the development of Vega SRMs and from Avio’s initial, self-financed development of the Z40 SRM as a demonstrator of new technologies for solid propulsion applications. The competitive edge and launching performance of the Vega C has been enhanced by implementing cost reduction strategies, improving its system architecture and design, and rationalizing the supply chain. As far as design issues are concerned, Vega’s evolved launcher will be even more flexible and versatile, extending Vega’s market from 50% of accessible LEO satellites to up to 90% with a considerable part covered by dual payload launches. Technologies were identified during the strategic planning for Vega enabling future developments by focusing on improvements of its performance achieved by cost reductions, payload comfort and the consolidation of the system integration capabilities within the European industry.