Spaceflight Insider

Arianespace poised to launch Vega with MOHAMMED VI–A satellite

MOHAMMED VI–A mission. Arianespace Vega rocket at the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Photo Credit: European Space Agency

Arianespace is preparing to launch the MOHAMMED VI–A satellite on behalf of the Kingdom of Morocco. Photo Credit: ESA

Arianespace is ready to launch the MOHAMMED VI–A satellite on behalf of the Kingdom of Morocco on November 7, 2017, at 10:42 p.m. local time (01:42 GMT Nov. 8). The spacecraft is slated to lift off from the Guiana Space Centre’s Vega Launch Complex (SLV) and will mark the 10th flight of the year for the Courcouronnes, Essonne, France-based firm. 

If everything goes according to plan, Tuesday’s launch will be the 11th for Vega since the rocket first took to the skies in 2012 (and the eighth time that Vega has been tapped to launch an Earth-observation payload). Vega has been tasked with placing the satellite into a Sun-synchronous orbit

Archive photo of an Arianespace Vega rocket launch at Kourou, French Guiana. Photo Credit Arianespace

Tuesday’s launch will mark the eleventh flight of the Vega launch system. Photo Credit: Arianespace

MOHAMMED VI–A is an Earth-observation satellite and, according to Gunter’s Space Page, is based on the French Pléiades-HR that was produced by Thales Alenia Space (which served as the prime contractor in the development of the satellite) and Airbus (which held the co-prime position).

MOHAMMED VI–A arrived in Kourou on September 22, 2017, where it was integrated to the interstage 1/2 about four days later. The satellite underwent electrical checks on October 9. Fueling of the spacecraft got underway on October 17–18. Then, between October 20 and 23, the satellite was integrated onto the payload adapter and the assembled payload was encapsulated onto Vega’s payload fairing.

As is the case with most missions lifting off from Kourou, French Guiana, it has an official flight designation: VV11.

A Launch Readiness Review, or “LRR”, is slated to take place on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. This will serve to confirm that the launch vehicle and site are ready to support the flight which should last some 55 minutes and 33 seconds from liftoff until spacecraft separation.

The four-stage Vega rocket stands some 98 feet (30 meters) in height and is capable of lofting 3,307 pounds (1,500 kg) to a 435-mile (700 km) circular orbit. Like most launch vehicles that are in service today, the Vega is produced by a wide range of contractors.

The rocket’s payload fairing is constructed by RUAG Space, with the payload adapter itself manufactured by Airbus (Spain), Airbus also produced the AVUM structure with its engine produced by Ukraine-based KB Yuzhnoye.

The rockets’ various stages and adapters are produced by Rheinmetall, Airbus (the Netherlands branch), Europropulsion, and ArianeGroup.

The MOHAMMED VI–A spacecraft is being launched to map and survey the land for agricultural purposes, responding to natural disasters as well as to monitor environmental changes and the encroaching deserts. The satellite will also provide border and coastal surveillance services.

At liftoff, the high-resolution optical reconnaissance system satellite has an approximate weight of approximately 2,447 pounds (1,110 kg)

Thales Alenia Space, as system prime contractor, supplied the payload, including the optical instrument, the image transmission subsystem, and the ground segment for image processing and production. Airbus, as satellite prime contractor, was in charge of its integration, as well as supplying the platform and the ground segment for mission planning and satellite control.

After the launch of MOHAMMED VI–A, there’s only one other flight slated to take place out of Kourou – the planned December 12 launch of four Galileo-FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites atop an Ariane 5 rocket. The final 2017 launch will see the next wave of navigational satellites that are being lofted to provide the same services as the U.S.’ GPS and the Russian GLONASS constellations.




Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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