Business, Finance & Economics

Europe's new Vega rocket successfully launched (VIDEO)

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On 13 February 2012, the first Vega lifted off on its maiden flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.

Credit:

ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012

The European Space Agency successfully launched its new rocket, Vega, this morning.

Vega blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 7:00 AM local time and made what the ESA described as a "flawless" first flight.

More from GlobalPost: Vega, Europe's newest rocket, set to launch Monday

Its maiden voyage lasted around 70 minutes and took nine payloads into orbit, the BBC reported. The mission was what is known as a qualification flight, a test run to make sure all the rocket's systems function as intended.

Today's launch was the result of around a decade of work and nearly €790 million ($1 billion) of investment, according to the South African Press Association

Lightweight Vega was designed to complement the ESA's large and mid-size launch vehicles, Ariane 5 and Soyuz, by taking multiple small satellites into orbit close to Earth.

"There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

The payloads Vega placed into orbit this morning included the first ever spacecraft from Poland, Romania and Hungary, and an Italian satellite that the BBC compared to a "hi-tech 'disco ball.'"

Named the Laser Relativity Satellite, or LARES, it is covered with 92 reflectors that will allow scientists to measure its orbit very precisely from Earth. According to Agence France Presse, the resulting data will be used to test the so-called Lense-Thirring effect, part of Einstein's theory of general relativity which says that as the Earth rotates, it drags space and time around with it.