Blog about satellites: launches, operations, studies, fall.

The Vega-C rocket blasting off for its maiden mission (Image courtesy ESA)

A little while ago, the new European Vega-C rocket, the evolution of the Vega rocket that was in service for almost exactly 10 years, blasted off from the European launch base in French Guayana. After about 85 minutes, various satellites started being put into orbit including LARES-2 for the Italian Space Agency and some nanosatellites.

The main payload for the first flight of the Vega-C carrier rocket, referred to as VV21, is the LARES-2 (Laser Relativity Satellite 2) satellite of ASI (Italian Space Agency). It’s an improved successor to the LARES satellite launched on February 13, 2012, during the original Vega rocket’s qualification flight. The aim remains to test some aspects of the theory of relativity.

The secondary payload consists of CubeSat-class nanosatellites, which are now very common and consequently normal cargoes for a launch vehicle like Vega-C. These are the Italian AstroBio CubeSat and Greencube, the Slovenian Trisat-R, and the French MTCube-2 and Celesta.

The CAPSTONE satellite blasting off atop an Electron rocket (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago, NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite was launched atop a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from the base in New Zealand. For about six days, the rocket’s upper Photon stage will carry CAPSTONE toward the Moon and then separate and let it travel for more than four months. Eventually, this CubeSat-class satellite will enter a so-called near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) to study its dynamics for at least six months. This is the orbit into which NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a crucial element of the Artemis program, is scheduled to be placed, so there’s the need to check for unexpected problems, which includes communications.

The satellites Star One D2 and Eutelsat Quantum blasting off atop an Ariane 5 rocket (Image courtesy Arianespace)

A few hours ago, the telecommunications satellites Star One D2 and Eutelsat Quantum were launched from the Kourou spaceport, in French Guiana, to be sent into a geostationary orbit. Of the two satellites, Eutelsat Quantum was the very special one as it’s the first fully commercial satellite that can be reprogrammed in orbit to respond to changing broadcast needs and upgrade the security of encrypted communications. It has an expected useful life of 15 years.

The Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich satellite blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Image NASA TV)

A short time ago, the Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich satellite was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg base. After almost exactly an hour, it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and set off on its course to reach the polar orbit at 1,336 kilometers altitude where its scientific mission will begin.

This mission is a collaboration between NASA, ESA, EUMETSAT, and NOAA. For this reason, it was named Michael Freilich after the former Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, who passed away on August 5, 2020, alongside NASA’s Jason satellites and at the same time is part of ESA’s Copernicus program.

IS-901 seen by MEV-1

Intelsat and Northrop Grumman have announced that the communications satellite Intelsat 901 (IS-901) has returned to active service after the Mission Extension Vehicle 1 (MEV-1) spacecraft docked on February 25, 2020. MEV-1 will allow Intelsat 901 to maintain its orbit and attitude again for almost 5 years, extending its life. It’s the first time that a satellite has returned to activity thanks to this type of mission.