Successful lift-off for Vega rocket

Kourou - Europe's new Vega rocket lifted off successfully from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on its first test flight on Monday.

The 30m-tall Vega, which was designed in Italy and took nearly a decade to complete, lifted off at 10:00 GMT on its maiden voyage, which was to last 81 minutes.

The diminutive Vega, which can carry payloads of up to 2 500kg, completes the European family of rockets, which includes the heavy-duty Ariane 5 and the mid-size Russian-built Soyuz.

The rocket will release nine satellites into orbit on its maiden flight: Two Italian satellites and seven pico satellites provided by European universities.

The Vega was developed by seven European countries at a cost of nearly €790m ($1bn).

The last time the ESA launched a new rocket was on June 4 1996, when it carried out the first test flight of the Ariane 5.

That rocket exploded 40 seconds after lift-off from Kourou. An investigation later identified a software error.
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