[SatNews] Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, and Pierluigi Pirrelli, Chief Executive of ELV (European Launch Vehicle), signed an agreement during the 31st French-Italian summit in Rome for Arianespace to order ten Vega launch vehicles from the Italian manufacturer.
These ten Vega rockets will be ready for launch starting at the end of 2015 and will cover more than three years of operations. They follow the original Vega launcher used for the qualification flight, and the five Vega launchers already ordered in 2010 within the scope of the VERTA contract.
ESA, ELV and Arianespace also signed an agreement defining the general framework for this activity, and the sharing of risks and responsibilities during this initial operational phase for the Vega launch system.
In addition to the French and Italian ministers in charge of space, Geneviève Fioraso and Maria Chiara Carrozza, respectively, the contract signing ceremony was attended by French President François Hollande, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, and Enrico Letta, Chairman of the Italian Council of Ministers. The European Space Agency (ESA) was represented by Antonio Fabrizi, Director of Launch Vehicles.
Following the success of the first two Vega launches, and four launch contracts already signed by Arianespace, this agreement really kicks off the operational phase for the Vega launcher, which is now established as the best launch vehicle in its class.
Vega is operated alongside the Ariane 5 heavy launcher and the Soyuz medium launcher as part of the Arianespace family of launchers at the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega is perfectly suited to the launch of small scientific and Earth observation satellites into low or Sun-synchronous orbit.
The Vega launch system was developed through an ESA program financed by Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.
Arianespace is the launch system operator during the operational phase, with responsibility for the marketing and sale of launch services and as prime contractor for launch operations.
ELV, S.p.A., based in Colleferro, Italy, is the industrial prime contractor for the Vega launcher. ELV is owned by Avio (70 percent) and the Italian space agency (30 percent).
Following the signature, Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël said, "With these ten new launchers, Arianespace and its partners are meeting the production and operational ramp-up challenge for Vega, the newest member of our family. We are addressing a growing demand for services by a light launcher, especially for Earth observation. We are very proud of rising to this challenge, to support our government and commercial customers. I would also like to pay tribute to the excellence demonstrated by ELV, who has delivered a reliable launcher, and to thank ESA for their full-fledged commitment to the success of Vega."
Pierluigi Pirrelli, Chief Executive of ELV, added, "I would like to thank everybody, especially the young people, in Italy and throughout Europe, who contributed their skills and their passion to making the development of this launcher such an outstanding technical success, and who are today working with Arianespace to guarantee the sustained operational success of the Vega launcher."