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Vega rocket blasts off with Swiss technology

Europe’s first Vega rocket has blasted off from French Guiana in an inaugural flight aimed at giving Europe a vehicle for scientific satellite missions.

The rocket took off from the European Space Agency’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America at 7am local time on Monday, with nine scientific satellites on board.

Ruag Space in Zurich developed the eight-metre-high protective cover, which shields the satellites from very high temperatures, sun, dust, humidity and rain before take-off.

Vega complements the family of rockets currently available for launch from Guiana: the Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher introduced in 1996 and Soyuz, a medium-class launcher.

Monday’s mission was scheduled to last around 90 minutes, during which time the nine satellites should separate and go into orbit.

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