Arianespace VV16 Mission to launch GHGSat, Kepler and exactEarth satellites

ESAIL satellite mounted on the Arianespace adapter. Credit: ESA

An Arianespace Vega launch vehicle is scheduled to deliver 53 satellites to orbit this Thursday, including three Canadian satellites on the VV16 mission.

Arianespace VV16 mission

The Arianespace VV16 mission will use the smaller Vega launch vehicle for the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS). This is a European Space Agency (ESA) proof of concept flight that will use a new satellite dispenser. It’s hoped that the new modular dispenser will demonstrate its usefulness which should be reflected in a lower cost to launch for small satellite operators.

This is the first mission in 2020 for the Vega which had been delayed due to a previous launch failure, and then the pandemic. The 53 satellites come from 21 customers and 13 countries.

Planet Labs accounts for 14 Flock 4v satellites, Swarm Technologies has 12 SpaceBee satellites and Spire has 8 Lemur-2 satellites. ESA has 5 satellites. Slovenia is launching their first satellite, NEMO-HD, built by Toronto’s Space Flight Laboratory.

The launch will be broadcast live on SpaceQ around 9:30 pm EDT on Thursday, June 18. (Note: The launch is now scheduled for September 1, 2020.

Watch: VV16 mission and the new ESA small satellite dispenser.

Canadian satellites

There are three Canadian satellites on the Vega launch. They include TARS for Kepler Communications, ESAIL for exactEarth, and Iris for GHGSat.

Kepler TARS satellite
Kepler TARS satellite. Credit: Kepler.

TARS is the third and last Internet of Things (IoT) demonstration satellite Kepler will launch. The company expects to launch several more satellites this year, though it won’t disclose how many, using their new GEN 1, or Generation 1 platform, and which are manufactured by Kepler in their downtown Toronto facility.

ESAIL satellite
ESAIL satellite. Credit: ESA.

For exactEarth, the ESAIL satellite, is the product of a partnership with ESA. It is the first commercial satellite under ESA’s maritime SAT-AIS (Automatic Identification System) ship tracking program.

The satellite was built by LuxSpace as part of the ESA ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) program which Canada participates in.

GHGSat-C1 Iris satellite
GHGSat-C1 Iris satellite. Credit: GHGSat.

In an email exchange with Stephane Germain, CEO of GHGSat, Germain told us that “this is the (twice-delayed) culmination of 4 years of lessons learned. We’re excited to show the world what Iris can do!”

Iris (GHGSat-C1) is the second satellite GHGSat will launch. The first, Claire (GHGSat-D), has been a workhorse and surpassed its life expectancy, though it did have a few issue.

GHGSat Iris satellite
GHGSat Iris satellite. Credit: GHGSat.

GHGSat has built a strong following and developed important relationships with both government and industry. The company plans to launch a small constellation of emission detecting satellites as well as deploying sensors in planes.

Iris will have short commissioning period said Germain. “Based on our experience with GHGSat-D (Claire) – likely only 2 weeks. We have a series of ‘firsts’ planned through the summer and early fall.”

The company will also launch GHGSat-C2 (Hugo) in December, if the schedule holds.

The company last week also launched a podcast last week. Germain said the podcast “provides a new medium (to) reach out that is often easier for our stakeholders to consume than reading articles and case studies. We’re still testing it out, but I would expect monthly updates.”

Prior to the launch this Thursday, GHGSat is expected to make a significant announcement.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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