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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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A Big Step for Europe's Small Space Launcher
13 February 2012 11:55 am
Today's inaugural flight of Europe's Vega rocket went off without a hitch as European Space Agency mission VV01 lit up the early morning sky above the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. Vega is a novel small launcher designed to carry scientific and Earth observation satellites, anything from 300 to 2500 kilograms.
In recent years, many small satellite missions have opted to use converted Russian ICBMs, such as Rokot and Dnepr, to get into space, but these launchers have sometimes had reliability problems. So 9 years ago, ESA, in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency, set out to develop its own small launcher. Some €700 million later, Vega is ready for business. Its clients will come mainly from the government market and the rocket already has five launches booked from ESA, followed by the first two Sentinel environmental monitoring mission from the European Union. The diminutive Vega, which is just 30 meters tall, will now be operated by Arianespace and will complement the company's medium-sized Soyuz launcher and the heavy-lifting Ariane 5. "There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service," ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.
Monday's maiden flight carried a total of nine satellites, which all got a free ride. The largest, dubbed LARES, will test the Lense-Thirring effect, a prediction of general relativity that concerns the distortion of spacetime by a rotating massive body. The remaining eight are all tiny satellites built by university groups.