VEGA: The history of a European success
Accettura, Antonio ; Balduccini, Mauro ; Carducci, Franco ; ...De Lillis, Arturo ; et al.
Oct - 2012
DOI: 10.1109/ESTEL.2012.6400201
ISBN : 978-1-4673-4688-7

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type: Conference Proceedings

Italy was the third country to deliver a satellite in orbit in the far 1964, since then Italy has been strongly involved on space activities at launchers, satellites and ground segments level. In particular, concerning the access to space, an evolutionary path has been implemented, starting from the first apogee motor (1977) up to the large Ariane 5 solid rocket motor boosters (1996). In the late 90 a National program begun with the objective to increase technological capabilities in the field of small launchers: Vega-K0 was born. In early 2000 the program moved from a national to a European vision and in 2003 ESA signed the contract that consolidated Vega to be e European launcher. The aim of this paper is to trace, show and to some extent justify, the evolutionary path that made Vega a technological achievement. It is worth to note that a complex program such as the development of a space launch vehicle, can be achieved only if several multidisciplinary factors act together for a common objective. For Vega, the following drives could be considered success keys that pushed, and continue to do so, the small launcher to the high frontiers of technology: (a) European and National space agencies commitments (b) Use of solid rocket motors (simple, reliable, low cost and high performance) (c) Merging European and international industrial skills focused on the project (d) Implementation of innovative technologies (such as the composite case) (e) Strong technical management dedicated to the development of each subsystem Main program phases, as well as the firing and the integrated tests that accompanied the launcher qualification, will be presented and discussed. Today Vega launcher has successfully achieved its maiden flight on 13/02/2012, releasing in orbit with high accuracy LARES, ALMASat-1 and 7 CubeSats, marking the starting point for another European success. Finally an overview of future programs enabling access to space will be shown, including the new launcher- evolutions.

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