Though many think of CFR composites as costly, the incorporation of this material into the Vega design might imply that the ESA considers it one of the "advanced low-cost technologies" mentioned on its Website as being used in the new launcher.
According to presentations at the CarbonFiber 2011 conference late last year, carbon fiber is becoming more plentiful and can meet demand in aerospace and other high-performance applications, in part because new suppliers have entered the market. And at least one marker research firm's presentation said that high-rate CFR composite manufacturing methods are helping to increase the supply of composites, and that CFR composites are on a path to becoming the dominant material in aircraft structures.
In addition to using composites in the Vega launcher, the ESA is keeping manufacturing costs down by using prebuilt production facilities for its line of larger Ariane launchers. The single-body Vega has been designed with three solid propulsion stages and a liquid propulsion upper module used for attitude and orbit control and satellite release. The maiden launch occurred at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, where it completed a flawless qualification flight.
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