This lightweight member of Arianespace's launch vehicle family now stands in a flight-ready configuration at the Spaceport's ZLV launch site, where it is protected by a mobile gantry that will be rolled back beginning at 2 hrs., 40 min. prior to liftoff. Designated Flight VV04 in Arianespace's numbering system, the mission will mark Vega's second within the European Space Agency-managed VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment) program to showcase this vehicle's flexibility and versatility.
The industrial prime contractor for Vega—which is one of three launchers operated by Arianespace from French Guiana, along with the medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5—is ELV S.p.A., a company created in December 2000 by Avio and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
During the upcoming flight, IXV—an unmanned spaceplane built for the European Space Agency by Thales Alenia Space—will be deployed by Vega into a suborbital trajectory that ends with the payload's splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, after which it will be picked up by a recovery ship. The research and industrial community will have an opportunity to use the IXV's atmospheric reentry data for future applications in exploration, science, Earth observation, microgravity and clean space.
Follow Arianespace's launch activity at: http://www.arianespace.com/.