Vega (Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata, Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket) is an expendable launch system in use by Arianespace jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. Development began in 1998 and the first launch took place from the Guiana Space Centre on 13 February 2012. Arianespace has ordered launchers covering the period till at least the end of 2018. It is designed to launch small payloads 300 to 2,500 kg satellites for scientific and Earth observation missions to polar and low Earth orbits. The reference Vega mission is a polar orbit bringing a spacecraft of 1,500 kilograms to an altitude of 700 kilometers. Vega, named after the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, is a single-body launcher (no strap-on boosters) with three solid rocket stages, the P80 first stage, the Zefiro 23 second stage, the Zefiro 9 third stage, and a liquid rocket upper module called AVUM. The technology developed for the P80 program will also be used for future Ariane developments. Italy is the leading contributor to the Vega program (65%), followed by France (13%). Other participants include Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.