ELV selects Curtiss-Wright rad-tolerant COTS data acquisition technology for ESA Vega-C

ASHBURN, Va. Rocket scientists at European Launch Vehicle (ELV) SpA, prime contractor on the Vega-C Launcher System and GPM Development and Qualification Program for the European Space Agency (ESA), needed a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based telemetry data system for the new launcher. The aerospace engineers in Colleferro, Italy, found their solution at Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division in Ashburn, Virginia.

ELV selects Curtiss-Wright Smart Backplane radiation-tolerant COTS data acquisition technology for European Space Agency Vega-C launcher
ELV selects Curtiss-Wright Smart Backplane radiation-tolerant COTS data acquisition technology for European Space Agency Vega-C launcher

ASHBURN, Va. Rocket scientists at European Launch Vehicle (ELV) SpA, prime contractor on the Vega-C Launcher System and GPM Development and Qualification Program for the European Space Agency (ESA), needed a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based telemetry data system for the new launcher. The aerospace engineers in Colleferro, Italy, found their solution at Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division in Ashburn, Virginia.

Curtiss-Wright will provide ELV with a full, radiation-tolerant telemetry system, including data acquisition, data handling, and RF transmission capabilities.


Photo: ESA

The mid-sized Vega-C rocket launcher is designed to deliver government, commercial, and science payloads weighing three tons or less, such as small satellite constellations, to low-earth orbit. ESA’s goal is for the Vega-C launcher to serve as a next-generation launch vehicle that is able to support the same or greater mission objectives as the original Vega launcher, but at reduced cost. Curtiss-Wright’s cost-effective COTS electronics systems approach was selected to support this challenging performance/cost target, officials say.

This agreement represents the first use of Curtiss-Wright’s radiation-tolerant Smart Backplane technology on a European launch vehicle. Under the contract, Curtiss-Wright will provide ELV with a full telemetry system, including data acquisition, data handling, and RF transmission.

The Vega-C development contract runs from January 2017 until first launch in June 2019, with a value estimated at $5 million. The value of the subsequent production phase is estimated at more than $10 million over the lifetime of the program.

“We are very excited about being selected by ELV to provide our cost-effective Space COTS telemetry system for use on the Vega-C, especially as this is our first avionics design win on a European launcher,” says Lynn Bamford, senior vice president and general manager, Defense Solutions division. “Our unique Smart Backplane technology enables radiation-tolerant electronics to be used in many applications across many market sectors, allowing lower cost COTS modules to be reliably used in harsh space environments.”

The Vega-C rocket will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. ESA’s requirement for Vega-C flights include a minimum of three launches per year, with expected demand for at least four per year. Curtiss-Wright will develop and manufacture the telemetry system for Vega-C at its facilities in Dublin, Ireland.

Photo: ESA

Elv (European Launch Vehicle), established by Avio and ASI (Italian Space Agency) in December 2000, was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to serve as prime contractor in the activities geared to the development of the European launcher, called Vega, and other small launchers with all associated technologies. The company is responsible for every aspect of system development, from the drafting of the specifications, through production, to its integration in the launch pad.

Elv's primary tasks include managing and planning launcher design, development, qualification and production processes, by coordinating the activities of the subcontracts participating in the program. Moreover, ELV coordinates and ensures the integration of the launcher in the lift-off facilities and participates with a team in the final stage of the launch. At present Elv is owned 70 percent by Avio SpA and 30 percent by ASI. Headquartered in Rome, it has an operational facility in Colleferro (Rome), where Avio has its main aerospace operations.

Curtiss-Wright Corp. delivers highly engineered, critical function products and services to the commercial, industrial, defense, and energy markets. Building on the heritage of Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers, Curtiss-Wright has a long tradition of providing reliable solutions through trusted customer relationships. The company employs approximately 8,400 people worldwide.

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