Made in Italy satellite launcher designed and manufactured by Avio completes successful launch.

Rivalta di Torino (Italy), 13 February 2012 - At 11:00 CET, the Vega satellite launcher designed and manufactured by Avio - Italy's leading aerospace company - successfully completed its maiden test flight. The rocket was launched from the Kourou European Space Centre, in French Guyana.

Vega is the first next-generation satellite launcher designed and developed in Italy, and was developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency / International Space agency. The launcher will transport mainly small, lower-cost satellites into lower orbit (700 km from the earth's surface) dispatching multiple payloads in a single trip. In providing greater accessibility through price and flexibility of mission, it offers many SMEs, universities and research centres access to space for the first time - easing the strain on existing satellite infrastructure.

Avio is the prime contractor managing the programme, coordinating work with 12 different countries and 45 separate companies, to produce 65% of the launcher at its Colleferro plant near Rome.

Commenting on the launch, Avio CEO Francesco Caio said:

"Today's successful launch is a hugely proud moment for Avio and the culmination of years of hard work from the company and its partners. It's also a matter of national pride, because today Italy has become one of only a small minority of countries which have used their own pioneering technology to gain access to space."

"With Vega, Avio - already a leader in solid space propulsion - strengthens its position as a major systems integrator in Europe. But this is just the beginning: today's launch marks the first step in a journey towards further, pioneering space missions."

Pier Giuliano Lasagni, Head of Space at Avio, said:

"Today is the result of eight years of hard work towards the development of the new launcher - the first ever to be made completely out of carbon fibre".

"I want to pay tribute to the enthusiasm and expertise of our team at Colleferro (Rome). The successful Vega mission not only opens a new door to future space technology, it also gives us even more impetus to take what we have learned and continue to push the boundaries of space acces".

Vega completes the family of European space launchers, alongside the Ariane 5 and Soyuz, wich launch larger satellites of 10 tonnes and medium size respectively. Today Vega has dispatched into orbit the LARES and Almasat-1satellites along with and seven small CUBEsat satellites, which are the size of milk cartons.

The CUBESAT micro-satellites were developed for use by European universities, including Turin's polytechnic and Rome University, which won a competition to be represented on Vega's first mission. The Almasat-1 satellite was designed by students at Bologna University to validate space propulsion technologies.

The LARES (Laser Relativity Satellite) is designed to enable research related to physics and Earth sciences.