Arianespace Vega-C LARES-2 Launch

After a series of delays, Arianespace has reset the launch time for its first Vega-C mission to launch the European Space Agency’s LARES-2 laser relativity test mass satellite into orbit. The liftoff time has been reset to 12:13 UTC on 2022-07-13. Vega-C is an up-rated version of Arianespace’s solid fuel Vega light launcher which uses the same solid booster for its first stage that Ariane 6 will use as a strap-on booster.

Here is a pre-flight preview from Everyday Astronaut.

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Troubles, troubles—the launch time has now been reset to 12:13 UTC,

The launch and mission were a complete success. I have cued the replay video to start one minute before launch, with the first two and a half hours consisting of various delays.

The Vega C rocket has a thrust to weight ratio around twice that of typical liquid fuel launchers and leaps off the pad like an ICBM. Its third stage, also solid fuelled, does an ICBM-style trick to manage the impulse it delivers to the payload. Since it cannot be throttled or shut down until its fuel is consumed, when approaching the desired delta-v, it pitches up to expend the excess propellant in a Kerbal-like radial out maneuver.

The LARES-2 payload was placed in a very unusual orbit, right in the middle of the inner van Allen radiation belt. As a completely passive object (nickel sphere covered with retro-reflectors), it is not affected by the radiation.