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article imageFirst Vega rocket launch a success for European Space Agency

By Tucker Cummings     Feb 14, 2012 in Science
Kourou - This week marked the successful launch of the European Space Agency's first Vega rocket from their launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana.
The rocket had nine scientific satellites on board, and was launched at 7 am local time on February 13. The main payload of the rocket was LARES, a satellite that will test aspects of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Also aboard: 7 CubeSats from various European Universities.
Vega weighs in at 137 metric tons, and is 30 meters tall. It features the ability to send multiple payloads into different orbits. It is the first new rocket model developed by the European agency since the 1990s.
Antonio Fabrizi, director of launchers at ESA, told reporters that "Vega is the right tool to cover missions of earth-observation, science and technology demonstration," adding that it was superior in many ways to other launch technologies like Ariane or Soyuz (both launch technologies are also available for the ESA to use at the Guiana facility.)
According to the Daily Mail, "Future Vega flights will be handled by the Arianespace commercial launch consortium," despite the fact that the maiden flight was conducted by the ESA.
Arianespace chief executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said: "We are off to a good start as we've already signed two commercial launch contracts to launch (satellites) aboard Vega."
Meanwhile, the outlook isn't quite so rosy for NASA. According to Fox News, the agency announced this week that it will be at its lowest level of funding in four years after it cuts $310 million from the budget for its Planetary Science division in 2013. That means projects related to Mars exploration or the study of the outer planets of the solar system may find themselves under-funded.
More about Space, European space agency, vega, NASA
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