The European Space Agency has put its small launch rocket, Vega, into orbit for the first time. The new rocket expands Europe's possibilities for sending satellites into orbit.
The European Space Agency (ESA) successfully launched its small launch rocket, Vega, on Monday morning.
"Lift off!" reported the ESA via its Twitter feed shortly after the launch. "On 13 February 2012, the first Vega lifted off on its maiden flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana."
Vega is a rocket created to carry smaller payloads containing satellites for scientific and earth observation missions. The Vega program was launched by the ESA in 1998 to complement the ESA's heavy Ariane 5 and medium Soyuz rockets.
It is unique in that it can accommodate a variety of different payload configurations and can carry mulitple smaller satellites in addition to a main one.
Monday's mission contained a total of nine small satellites. Since this is Vega's first mission, tests will be conducted to qualify the overall system.
The Vega project, which is named after the second brightest star in the northern hemisphere, cost 710 million euro ($1 billion). Nearly 60 percent of Vega's industrial geographical return goes to Italy.
Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Mark Hallam