The European Space Agency (ESA) successfully launched its Vega-C rocket from its launch site in French Guiana on Wednesday.
After a two-hour delay, Vega-C finally launched from the ESA Space Port in the town of Kourou at 10:13 AM local time.
Vega-C’s inaugural flight placed its primary cargo, LARES-2, an Italian Space Agency-built satellite, safely into its intended orbit along with secondary payloads, the six research CubeSats made in collaboration by Slovenia, France, and Italy.
“Today we open a new era of European launch solutions, starting with Vega-C and to be complemented by Ariane 6,” said ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander.
According to the ESA, Vega-C can carry twice as much cargo as its predecessor Vega due to its larger fairing, which allows it to carry 2.3 tons instead of the 1.5 tons that the previous Vega could transport to Earth’s orbit.
The 650-pound LARES-2’s purpose is to detect the so-called frame-dragging effect, which is a deformation of space-time brought on by the rotation of a huge planetary body like the Earth, in accordance with Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
On the other hand, two of the six CubeSats will study plant growth in microgravity, while one will test a new method for detecting biomolecules in space. The third will investigate the auroras and other phenomena connected to the Earth’s magnetosphere, while the remaining three will examine how radiation from space affects electronics.
Vega-C will now be operated by the French company Arianespace, which aims to launch the Ariane 6 rocket sometime in 2023.
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