Payload preparations have begun in French Guiana for Arianespace’s next mission – which is to utilize the light-lift Vega in deploying the first Pléiades Neo constellation satellite and other passengers in a piggyback configuration.
Produced by Airbus Defence and Space, Pléiades Neo 3 arrived yesterday at Félix Eboué Airport near Cayenne, then traveled by road to the Spaceport to begin its processing. Liftoff of this Vega mission – designated Flight VV18 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system – is planned in the coming weeks from the equatorial space base.
Pléiades Neo 3 arrived in French Guiana along with Pléiades Neo 4, the second satellite scheduled to join the Pléiades Neo constellation – which is funded, manufactured, owned, and operated by Airbus Defence and Space. Pléiades Neo 4 will be orbited on the following Arianespace Vega flight.
When fully deployed, Airbus’ Pléiades Neo constellation will comprise four identical satellites to provide commercial and institutional customers with high-resolution imaging. Phased at 90° and operated in the same orbit, these satellites are to be capable of visiting any point on the globe at least twice daily.
Continuing Arianespace’s small satellite launch services
The SSMS program, initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) with the European Commission’s contribution, allows Arianespace to offer ride-share solutions tailored for the small satellite market. Arianespace performed the first SSMS launch using a Vega vehicle in September 2020 – successfully deploying 40-plus small CubeSats and seven microsatellites into Sun-synchronous orbit.
The Small Spacecraft Mission Service dispenser system is an ESA product developed by Italy’s Avio under the space agency’s leadership, and is produced by the Czech company SAB Aerospace s.r.o. (CZ).
Composed of modular components, the dispenser is assembled to serve as the interface with grouped payloads composed of microsatellites and CubeSats. Capable of accepting a full range of payload combinations, the SSMS configuration has been designed to be as responsive as possible in meeting the launch service market’s needs for institutional and commercial customers.