Vega C rocket lifting off from Europe's Spaceport during its maiden launch in July 2022 for VV21 mission. Credits: ESA/S.Corvaja

Avio to Manage Vega C Services from 2025

From 2025 Avio will commercialize and operate the launch services of the Vega C rocket, taking over from Arianespace, as per the last ESA council resolution

On July 5, 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) Council issued a resolution on a new legal framework to regulate the exploitation of ESA-developed launchers, as requested in a previous council resolution issued in November 2023. The new rules allow Avio S.p.A., the prime contractor of the Vega three-stage launcher, to commercialize and operate the rocket launch services, replacing Arianespace SA.

The change will be effective after the Vega VV29 mission, planned for the end of 2025. The customers of the following missions who have already purchased a launch service can move their contracts from Arianespace to Avio, keeping their reservation.

“ESA Member States are finalising the changes needed to the framework governing the exploitation of ESA-developed launchers to allow for Avio to become Vega launch service provider. With today’s decisions, ESA Member States are ensuring continuity while allowing Avio to market the Vega launch services from now on.” – Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA Director of Space Transportation.

— Toni Tolker-Nielsen, ESA Director of Space Transportation


Vega C, the rocket evolution in fits and starts 

Following mission VV21, the successful maiden flight on July 13, 2022, the Vega rocket evolution named Vega-C experienced several hiccups on its journey to replace the old launcher version.

Its second mission in December 2022, VV22, experienced an anomaly and the launcher failed to reach orbit. The cause of the failure was identified as a bad performance of the Zefiro 40 engine nozzle, mounted on the rocket’s second stage, with the consequent need for a new nozzle design.

In May 2024, the new Zefiro 40 had a successful static fire, opening the possibility of a second test in October and of the return to flight of Vega C by the end of 2024.

Static-fire test of the Zefiro 40 engine on May 28. Credits: Avio
Static-fire test of the Vega Zefiro 40 engine on May 28. Credits: Avio

Even the latest Vega mission, VV23, suffered a minor failure since two of the ten secondary payloads did not detach from the dispenser and burned into the atmosphere still attached to the upper rocket stage. Since the malfunction was identified on the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser designed by SAB Aerospace for Avio, Arianespace declared the rocket launch successful.


The stage for more diverse European launch services

The new rules included in the ESA Council resolution of July 5, 2024, defined the constitution of a “European launch service”, including the “considerations on the nationality of the launch service provider and location of the launcher system development, manufacturing and launch operations”.

Europe’s Spaceport seen from space. Credits: ESA
Europe’s Spaceport seen from space. Credits: ESA

To support further the development of European autonomous access to space and a competitive environment, the Council authorized other European companies like Isar Aerospace, MaiaSpace, PLD Space, and Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), to use the launch range of Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana.


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Giancarlo Albertinazzi

Giancarlo Albertinazzi

Space Ambassador, Terranaut, Future Spacepolitan, Writer of Becoming Spacepolitans Blog

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