Vega Rocket carries Göktürk-1 into orbit
KOUROU, French Guiana — Like an arrow shot into the sky, a Vega rocket leapt off the pad at Guyana Space Center’s Vega Launch Complex (SLV), carrying the Göktürk-1 into orbit. Arianespace’s tenth mission of the year, designated VV08, took off on Monday, December 5, 2016, at 13:51 GMT (8:51 a.m. EST) and successfully inserted Göktürk-1 into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at 14:49 GMT (9:49 a.m. EST).
This was the eighth Arianespace Vega launch from the Guiana Space Center since its first liftoff from the Guiana Space Center in 2012. The Vega (Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata, Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket) is Arianespace’s light payload launch vehicle, with a payload capacity of 1.5 metric tons; it was specifically designed for the launch of small scientific or Earth observation satellites. With a height of 98 feet (30 meters) and a diameter of 9.8 feet (3 meters), the launcher is made up of 3 solid rocket booster stages and a liquid-propellant maneuverable injection upper stage.
The satellite, Göktürk-1, was built by Thales Alenia Space – a subsidiary of Thales which is a minority owner of Telespazio, an Italian satellite services provider – and is the result of a contract inked in July 2009 between the Turkish Ministry of National Defense and contractor Telespazio. Göktürk-1 is a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite for civilian and military applications.
Vega was launched from the Vega Launch Complex (SLV) at Guiana Space Center. This specialized launch facility is where all final payload and launch preparations take place. The AVUM (Attitude Vernier Upper Module) upper stage is fueled and pressurized here days before launch. On Friday, December 2, 2016, the Launch readiness review was conducted, and all final launch preparations and inspections were completed.
The rocket began final launch countdown 9 hours before the flight; at this time, the launcher’s various systems, as well as an onboard computer, were activated. Four hours and 50 minutes before the flight, all safety devices were removed. Approximately one hour later, the mobile gantry was withdrawn in preparation for launch.
Forty minutes before the flight, all the launcher systems were declared go, with system synchronization occurring 4 minutes before liftoff.
At T–0, the first stage roared to life, quickly lifting the Vega launcher and its payload into the skies above the Amazon. The first stage of the Vega is powered by a P80 solid-fuel rocket engine. The P80 is capable of producing 508,300 lbf (2,261 kN) of thrust and burns for 1 minute and 54 seconds.
At T+1 minute 54 seconds, the P80 first stage was jettisoned at an altitude of 32 miles (51 kilometers); one second later, the Zefiro-23 second stage was ignited. The Vega’s second stage is powered by a Zefiro-23 solid-fuel rocket engine, which produces 195,800 lbf (871 kN) of thrust and burns for 1 minute and 44 seconds.
At T+3 minutes 37 seconds, the Zefiro-23 second stage was jettisoned at an altitude of 78 miles (126 kilometers); 17 seconds later, the Zefiro-9 third stage ignited. Five seconds later, the fairing was successfully jettisoned, exposing Göktürk-1 to the vacuum of space and bringing it that much closer to its destination. The Zefiro-9 produces 58,450 lbf (260 kN) of thrust and burns for 2 minutes 37 seconds.
At T+6 minutes 36 seconds, the Zefiro-9 third stage was jettisoned; this stage and the two that preceded it splashed down safely in the ocean. One minute 45 seconds later, Vega’s AVUM (Attitude Vernier Upper Module) upper stage was ignited for its first burn.
At T+14 minutes 40 seconds, AVUM completed its first burn; it was later reignited at T+54 minutes, burning for an additional two minutes before engine cut-off.
At T+57 minutes and 19 seconds, Göktürk-1 was successfully separated from AVUM and inserted into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of 435 miles (700 kilometers) with a semi-major axis of 4,387 miles (7,060 kilometers), inclined 98.11 degrees.
Göktürk-1 is based on the Proteus satellite bus provided by Thales Alenia Space. The spacecraft’s dimensions are 13.78 ft × 8.2 ft × 5.25 ft (4.2 m × 2.5 m × 1.6 m) and its mass at launch is 1.06 metric tons. The satellite features two deployable solar arrays and is expected to be operational for seven years and three months. Turkey also plans to launch Göktürk-3 by the end of 2019.
The AVUM began its third and final burn at T+1 hour 46 minutes with engine cut-off about a minute-and-a-half later. The mission was considered officially ended at T+2 hours, marking the end of a successful 10th mission of the year for Arianespace. Arianespace’s next orbital mission is currently planned for December 20 when an Ariane 5 launcher is slated to loft two communications satellites into space – Star One D1 for Brazil and JCSAT-15 for Japan.
Video Courtesy of Arianespace
College student and long time space enthusiast, Jose has been a constant visitor to Cape Canaveral since he moved to central Florida. He joined the SFI team in the hopes of becoming more involved in the coverage of spaceflight and space exploration.