Vega C is an evolutionary development of the current Vega launcher, the smallest among European launchers, and will enable significant advances to be made in terms of performance and costs. With Vega C, the load capacity will increase from Vega’s current 1,500 kg to 2,200 kg in Low Earth Orbit. The first qualification flight is scheduled for mid 2019. Vega C will deliver improved performances compared to its predecessor, and at a more competitive cost, thanks to the reorganization of production processes and to a more efficient production chain.
The most interesting innovations include the possibility of meeting market demands for satellite-based radars (SAR), which is gaining growing importance for all its related applications. In this respect, the new Vega C launcher will be even more flexible and versatile than its predecessor, increasing the market for this vehicle from 50 to 90% of LEO satellites, a substantial part of which can be managed by exploiting its multiple launch capability. From this standpoint, the current VESPA Payload Adapter will be used in missions involving multiple launches (two satellites) or to house Cubesats & microsats in its internal platform. In addition, the new Payload Adapter, the VAMPIRE, is under development and will enable a main Payload plus Small Payloads or Cubesats to be placed into orbit.
A further major innovation is the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS), a kind of adapter, also under development, which will enable the Vega C to increase the quantity of nanosatellites carried on every individual launch.
The strategic planning for Vega C has included the development of specific evolutionary technologies designed to achieve improvements in performance, cost reductions, payload comfort and to bolster the integration capacity of ELV systems in the European sector. The architecture of the new Vega C launcher is based on the existing Vega launcher, and on reusing several qualified subsystems currently employed on Vega . Specifically, like its Vega predecessor, Vega C will consist of 3 stages based on solid propulsion engines and one stage based on a liquid propulsion engine:
- New P120C SRM
- New Z40 SRM
- Reused Z9
- Modified AVUM, enabling a greater loading capacity than the current one
The experience gained during the development and exploitation of Vega flights has resulted insubstantial improvements being made to the avionic architecture of Vega C, associated with new Vega C launcher’s increased flexibility and additional services to the Payload.
The following specific developments have been introduced:
- New TVCs (electronic thrust vector control actuators) for the P120C and Z40 engines, based on the redundancy of the Control Unit and use of thermal batteries
- Additional services to the Payload thanks to the introduction of the new MFU MKII multi function unit, capable of handling multiple separations
- Introduction of a GNSS localization system, also used as support for flight safety checks
- Improvements to the flight software for greater flexibility
The Vega C program will also involve the design and development of new technologies in the field of avionics, such as TTEthernet, hybrid navigation and TDRS system-based telemetry, which will subsequently be applied in the future evolution of Vega E launcher.