Vega may refer to the star or the Vega launcher.
Vega is an expendable ESA launcher used by Arianespace. Its first launch was on 13 February 2012 from the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou.
It has three solid fuel stages above which is an upper liquid module called AVUM (Attitude and Vernier Upper Module) - for attitude and orbit control, the separation of satellites and removal from orbit - and a fairing.
It was developed by European industry and is designed for the small and medium size satellite market (1 tonne class) for low circular orbit missions (between 200 and 1500 kilometres altitude). It is in the small launcher category able to put payloads of some 1500 kg into polar orbit (700 km). Vega completes the Arianespace offer which already included the Ariane family and the Starsem Soyuz launcher.
The motivation for the development of Vega was the attractive prospect of the world satellite constellation market. Unfortunately, the misadventures of Iridium and the difficulties of Globalstar and the main operators in concluding their financing did not auger well for the financial viability of the programme.
Vega is an ESA programme financed by Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden. The shareholders of ELV are Fiat Avio (70 %) and the Italian Space Agency (30%).
The European Vega rocket (artists impression).