When Vega met satellites
The upper composite containing 53 separate satellites being attached to the rest of the Vega launcher, ahead of Friday morning's launch from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
This will be the inaugural launch of Vega's Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser, providing a 'ride share' service for multiple small missions, ranging from 1 kg CubeSats up to 500 kg minisatellites.
A total of eight European states have satellites aboard the flight, including four ESA payloads—the 100 kg ESAIL microsatellite and three CubeSats: Simba, PICASSO and FSSCat which carries pioneering AI technology named Φ-sat-1.
Notice the air conditioning umbilical fitted to the upper composite, used to keep the delicate satellites cool, dry and comfortable in the humid conditions of French Guiana.
Follow the launch on ESA Web TV from 03:36 CEST, with liftoff due at 03:51 CEST (01:51 UTC, 10:51 on Thursday night French Guiana time).