Monday night, a European Vega rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite as well as four miniature “cubesats” lifted off from French Guiana.
It was the second launch of the Vega this year, a key component of European ambitions in order to compete with SpaceX and Elon Musk’s SpaceX on the booming market for commercial aerospace.
The rocket launched from Kourou’s Guiana Space Centre at 10:47 PM (0147 GMT) and delivered the satellites in less than two hours.
The main cargo of the satellite was a high resolution satellite. This second of four Airbus-operated Earth observation constellations, it was the second. A Vega rocket placed the first satellite in orbit in April.
Airbus claims that the Pleiades Neo constellation will provide high-resolution imagery of Earth for civilian and military purposes, such as disaster response.
Arianespace, Vega’s operator, is a subsidiary owned by Airbus of the ArianeGroup.
Four miniature satellites, known as “cubesats”, were also included in the latest Vega.
One of the satellites will be part of a constellation developed by French startup Unseenlabs. This company specializes in monitoring maritime traffic.
The European Space Agency has the remaining three cubesats for demonstration and scientific purposes.
Monday’s launch was Arianespace’s second Vega launch this year and the 19th since its first flight in 2012.
These launches in 2021 are a boost for the Vega programme, which involves 10 European countries. In November last year, the rocket crashed minutes after liftoff.