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BBC News - Vega launcher makes first flight

Europe's new Vega rocket has completed a flawless first flight.

Controllers at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana ignited the rocket at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and it completed its mission 70 minutes later.

The 30m-tall vehicle has been designed to put small scientific and government satellites in orbit.

For its first outing, Vega carried nine payloads into space, including a physics experiment to test Einstein's theory of general relativity.

"A new member of the launcher family has been born," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Agency's (Esa) director general.

Member states of Esa, together with their industries, are investing more than a billion euros in the introduction of Vega.

The vehicle is intended to guarantee access to space for an increasingly important class of satellite weighing less than 2.5 tonnes.

At the moment, these smaller spacecraft, which include many Earth observation satellites, tend to ride decommissioned Russian nuclear missiles to get into orbit.

European operators can sometimes wait many months to get a launch slot on these converted ICBMs, however.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:10:04 PM EST
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BBC News - Nasa budget slashes Martian funds

President Barack Obama's 2013 budget request for Nasa would slash spending on Mars exploration and shift funds to human spaceflight and space technology.

As reported by BBC News last week, this means the US will pull the plug on its joint missions to Mars with Europe.

If approved by Congress, the budget request would reduce funds available for planetary science by about 21%.

But spending on human exploration and space technology would rise by 6% and 22% respectively.

"There's no doubt that tough decisions had to be made," Nasa's administrator Charles Bolden told a news conference in Washington DC.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:12:15 PM EST
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