Arianespace announced on Tuesday that it has signed a contract with the European Commission to launch five observation satellites between 2024 and 2026 with new Vega-C rockets.
This launcher, considered the little sister of the future giant Ariane 6 rocket, made its maiden flight on July 13.
The contract brings the number of launches in its order book to 13.
The five Sentinel satellites concerned are part of the Copernicus program, "designed to give Europe permanent, independent and reliable access to Earth observation data", recalled in a press release Arianespace, the company responsible for marketing launches. .
Copernicus already has seven Sentinel satellites in orbit, providing data used to monitor climate and pollution as well as assess damage from natural disasters.
Questioned this Tuesday during an online press conference, the executive president of Arianespace Stéphane Israel refused to communicate the amount of the contract.
However, he promised that the prices were “very competitive” compared to those of competing American launchers.
Ensure part of the missions devolved to Soyuz
Vega-C, C for "consolidation" according to its industrial prime contractor, the Italian Avio, is an improved version of the Vega light launcher, fired 20 times (including two failures) since 2012. With 35 m in height, Vega -C is a little bigger and wider than Vega and can put into polar reference orbit at 700 km altitude up to 2.2 tons of satellites, compared to 1.5 tons for Vega.
With this increased performance, Vega-C can address 90% of the market for satellites in low orbit, a few hundred kilometers above sea level, against half for Vega, according to Avio.
The Vega-C and Ariane 6 programs were launched in 2014. Vega-C will be able to carry out some of the missions previously assigned to the medium Russian Soyuz launcher.
The latter was, until the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, also marketed by Arianespace and fired from Kourou.
Tuesday's announcement comes less than a week after the 22 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to a budget of 16.9 billion euros for the next three years, up 17% from compared to the 14.5 billion euros granted at the ministerial conference in 2019. The autonomy of Europe's access to space is currently weakened by the three-year delay of the heavy launcher Ariane 6 - the first flight is now scheduled for the end of 2023- and the end of the use of Soyuz.