PARIS, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says its latest launch vehicle, Vega, is ready to join the Ariane 5 and Soyuz rockets after a successful launch from French Guiana.
The first Vega lifted off at 5 a.m EST Monday from the new launch pad at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou and experienced a flawless qualification flight, a release from ESA headquarters in France said.
With three different launchers now available, Europe can meet a full range of launch needs from small science and Earth observation satellites to the largest missions like ESA's supply freighters to the International Space Station, the release said.
Vega can accommodate a wide range of satellites, from 650 pounds to 5,500 pounds, and lift them into a wide variety of orbits from equatorial to Sun-synchronous, the agency said.
It will join the Ariane 5 heavy-lifter and the Soyuz medium-class launcher already in service.