PARIS — Italian rocket-propulsion manufacturer Avio of Italy on March 30 said its space division reported revenue of 285.7 million euros ($378.6 million) in 2010, down 1.6 percent from 2009, and that Europe’s new Vega small-satellite launcher, for which Avio is prime contractor, would conduct its maiden flight late this year.

Turin-based Avio, which produces about 14 percent of the value of Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket in addition to work on Vega and tactical-propulsion programs for the Italian Defense Ministry, did not break out profitability figures for the space division but said its performance was “important for the group, both in terms of profitability and stability” in 2010.

Avio owns 70 percent of ELV, the prime contractor for Vega. The Italian Space Agency owns the remaining 30 percent of the company.

Financed by the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA) mainly from Italian contributions, Vega is designed to place governmental science and Earth observation satellites weighing up to 1,500 kilograms into 700-kilometer orbits.

The Evry, France-based Arianespace commercial launch consortium in September ordered the first five Vega rockets from ELV, with a firm order for the first. The vehicles have been financed through ESA.

In a March 30 statement devoted to its financial performance, Avio said Vega’s first flight is scheduled for late 2011 from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.



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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.