A new test facility for the new Vega E engine

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On Tuesday October 5th Avio has inaugurated the Space Propulsion Test Facility at the Experimental Range for Joint Training of Salto di Quirra at Perdasdefogu, Sardinia. This event, combined with the signature of a 118.8 million euros contract with ESA, enables Avio to look forward to the next generation European rocket: Vega E.

The Space Propulsion Test Facility is a unique European center of excellence, which enables the development of new technologies for the rocket industry in the near future. One of the most important features of the facility is the LRE (Liquid Rocket Engine) test bench, which will be used to develop and test the new M10 liquid fueled engine. Avio CEO, Giulio Ranzo along with Italian Air Force Lieutenant General Davide Marzinotto, the President of Sardinia Regional Council Michele Pais, Army Brigadier General  Francesco Olla, Italian Space Agency President Giorgio Saccoccia and European Space Agency Director for Space Transportation Stefano Bianco attended the event.

The inauguration of the SPTF LRE test bench is the conclusion of the first phase of the project, which will be followed by the building of carbon-carbon infrastructures.

The maiden flight of the new Vega C rocket it is scheduled in the first quarter of 2022, but Avio and ESA are already looking forward to the next evolution of the Vega rocket family. A new launcher will join the family in the coming years: Vega E (Evolution).

The objective with Vega E is to further increase the competitiveness and performance of Vega C. This will increase its flexibility in terms of payload mass and volume and reduce the launch service cost and globally the cost of launch per kilo offered in the market.

Vega E will have three stages unlike Vega-C and Vega, which have four. The first two stages will be the same of Vega C: the P120C solid rocket motor, which provides an average thrust of 4,500 kN and the second stage, also a solid rocket motor Zefiro 40, which provides an average thrust of 1,304 kN.

The new third stage, will replace the third and upper stage of Vega and Vega C, the Zefiro 9 and AVUM respectively. The stage is the M10, which is equipped with an expander cycle engine that can be restarted multiple times. In 2020, the full-scale 3D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the M10 passed its first hot firing test. The engine is liquid fueled, with liquid oxygen (LOX) and methane, providing 98 kN of thrust.

The new engine will reduce emissions and combustion waste, which will improve its environmental sustainability. Later this year, the engine will be tested again at the Space Propulsion Test Facility.

Industries and universities from eleven countries are involved in the development of the Vega-E launch system. The prime contractor, Avio, with partners will develop the launcher system and its subsystems as well as the preliminary design of the Vega E future launch pad and the related infrastructure at the Guiana Space Center at Kourou, French Guiana.

Last summer, Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Avio, and Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation, signed a contract, worth 118.8 million euros, at ESA ESRIN site at Frascati, Italy. The agreement allows continuing the development of the new rocket.