Experts Gather for Vega C Program

Vega C launch vehicle (Credit: ESA)
Vega C launch vehicle (Credit: ESA)

COLLEFERRO, Italy (AVIO PR) — About a hundred of the main European experts in space launchers gathered at Colleferro, near Rome, for a project in which the AVIO Group has a leading role both for the new space motors and especially for the VEGA C orbital launcher.

“Thanks to the funding from the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research and the Italian Space Agency,” said AVIO CEO Giulio Ranzo. “We are responsible for leading the work of the European consortium which, under the auspices of the European Space Agency, is developing an even more advanced and powerful version of the VEGA orbital launcher.

“After the first six perfect launches, the VEGA is already considered the best vehicle of its category in the world,” he added. “But, in a sector where developments require years of work, we have started developing further improvements straight away. We are proud of the fact that we deserve the trust of our Country and of being able to contribute to maintaining levels of technological competence in Italy that are envied all over the world.”

In fact, through ELV (70% AVIO, 30% ASI), the AVIO Group, as Prime Contractor of the future launcher VEGA C, is hosting at the Colleferro site (Rome) the second meeting of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR), a very important phase of the VECEP (VEga Consolidation and Evolution Program) for the development of the future launcher.

“The development of a complex system that requires years and hundreds of thousands of hours of design and experimentation, is split into a certain number of consequential phases”, explained Pierluigi Pirrelli, CEO of ELV, the company that the AVIO Group (70%) has established for the purpose with the Italian Space Agency (30%).

“At the end of each project phase, there is the possibility to voluntarily submit the work to the strict examination of external experts who, not taking part personally in the activities, make more objective contributions. This examination started about a month ago when we submitted over a hundred technical documents, in a controlled and confidential process, explaining the reasons for the choices made up to now,” Pirrelli added.

“The European experts have made objections and criticisms while we have explained and justified our choices. We are now tying up the loose ends of this work so as to ascertain the really useful corrections from it. The aim of all this is to acquire maximum confidence in the quality of our choices in order to ensure the full success of the new VEGA C launcher,” he said.

The development of the VEGA C was approved on 2 December 2014 during the Ministerial Council of the Member States of the European Space Agency. At the same occasion the development of the Ariane 6 launcher was approved, as was the P120 C motor, which will be common to the VEGA C and Ariane 6.

The AVIO Group is part of the European Space Program approved in 2014 with the responsibility for the entire VEGA launcher and the new P120 motor to be used both on VEGA C and Ariane 6.


AVIO Group is an international leader in the space launcher sector and in spacecraft propulsion and space travel. It has 5 sites in Italy, France and French Guiana, and employs over 800 people. In 2014 its revenues exceeded 220 million Euros. AVIO Group is responsible for the Vega launcher, with its subsidiary ELV (30% owned by the Italian Space Agency, the ASI) as prime contractor. This makes Italy one of very few countries in the world able to produce a complete space launch vehicle. AVIO will build the new VEGA C launcher and will contribute towards building the new Ariane 6 launcher with new solid motors and Vinci and Vulcain liquid oxygen turbopumps.

The new solid propulsion motor, currently named P120C, for the European launch vehicle Ariane 6 and the new, more powerful version of the VEGA launcher will be developed and built by Europropulsion (J.V. 50% AVIO, 50% ASL). To create this motor and the new Zefiro 40 motor (built and tested in Italy, to be used for the second stage of the VEGA launch vehicle), a new composite material made of pre-impregnated carbon fibre will be used, made directly by Avio in its research centres in Colleferro and Campania.

AVIO has many years of experience in the design and construction of solid and liquid propellant propulsion systems for space launch vehicles and for tactical propulsion. The company created the liquid oxygen turbopump for the Vulcain cryogenic engine, and the two lateral solid propellant motors for Ariane 5, the first stage of the Aster 30 anti-missile defence missile. To date, AVIO solid propulsion has been used successfully in all of Ariane’s over 220 launches, and in all of Vega’s launches.

In the satellite field, AVIO Group has created propulsion subsystems for the ESA and ASI to place in orbit and control over 30 satellites, including most recently SICRAL and Small GEO.