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Vega 2



This spacecraft mission combined a Venus swingby and a Comet Halley flyby. Two identical spacecraft, Vega 1 and Vega 2, were launched December 15 and 21, 1984, respectively. After carrying Venus entry probes to the vicinity of Venus (arrival and deployment of probes were scheduled for June 11-15, 1985), the two spacecraft were retargetted using Venus gravity field assistance to intercept Comet Halley in March 1986. The first spacecraft encountered Comet Halley on March 6, 1986, and the second three days later. The flyby velocity was 77.7 km/s. Although the spacecraft could be targetted with a precision of 100 km, the position of the spacecraft relative to the comet nucleus was estimated to be known only to within a few thousand kilometers. This, together with the problem of dust protection, led to estimated flyby distances of 10,000 km for the first spacecraft and 3000 km for the second.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The spacecraft was three-axis stabilized. Its main features were large solar panels, a high-gain antenna dish, and an automatic pointing platform carrying those experiments that required pointing at the comet nucleus. The automatic platform could rotate through + or -110 deg and + or -40 deg in two perpendicular directions with a pointing accuracy of 5 arc-min and a stability of 1 arc-min/s. It carried the narrow- and the wide-angle camera, the three-channel spectrometer, and the infrared sounder. All other experiments were body-mounted, with the exception of two magnetometer mounted on a 2-m boom and various plasma probes and plasma wave analyzers mounted on a 5-m boom. The total scientific payload weighed 125 kg and had a data rate of 65 kbs in fast telemetry mode for encounter. There was also a slow telemetry mode for the cruise mode. The comet-encounter science data-take was from 2.5 h before until 0.5 h after the closest approach, with several periods of data-take before and after, each lasting about 2 h. Continuous coverage for plasma and dust instruments was provided by an onboard memory (5-megabit tape recorder). The spacecraft was shielded from hypervelocity dust impacts by a shield consisting of a 100-micrometer multilayer sheet 20 to 30 cm from the spacecraft, and a 1-mm Al sheet 5 to 10 cm from the spacecraft. Approximately half of the Vega spacecraft was devoted to the Halley module, and half to the Venus lander package. The total scientific payload weight was 144.3 kg.

Venus Descent Module

The Venus package consisted of a sphere 240 cm in diameter, which separated two days before arrival at Venus and entered the planet's atmosphere on an inclined path, without active maneuvers, as was done on previous Venera missions. The lander probe was identical to those of Venera 9 through 14 and similarly had two objectives, the study of the atmosphere and the study of the superficial crust. In addition to temperature and pressure measuring instruments, the descent probe carried a UV spectrometer for measurement of minor atmospheric constituents, an instrument dedicated to measurement of the concentration of H2O, and other instruments for determination of the chemical composition of the condensed phase: a gas-phase chromatograph; an X-ray spectrometer observing the fluorescence of grains or drops; and a mass spectrograph measuring the chemical composition of the grains or drops. The X-ray spectrometer separated the grains according to their sizes using a laser imaging device, while the mass spectrograph separated them according to their sizes using an aerodynamical inertial separator. After landing, a small surface sample near the probe was to be analyzed by gamma spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence. The UV spectrometer, the mass spectrograph, and the pressure- and temperature-measuring instruments were developed in cooperation between French and Soviet investigators. For more on the descent craft, see:

Balloon Aerostats

In addition to the lander probe, a constant-pressure instrumented balloon aerostat was deployed after entry into the atmosphere from the upper heat protection hemisphere. It floated at approximately 50 km altitude in the middle, most active layer of the Venus three-tiered cloud system. Data from the balloon instruments were transmitted directly to Earth for the 47-hr lifetime of the mission. For more on the balloons, see:

Image of Vega atmospheric probe model on display at the NPO Lavochkin Museum (Courtesy of Alexander Chernov)

Alternate Names

  • Venera-Halley 2
  • 15449

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1984-12-21
Launch Vehicle: Proton
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 2500.0 kg

Funding Agency

  • Soviet Academy of Sciences (U.S.S.R)


  • Planetary Science
  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions or comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams.



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. Artem IvankovGeneral ContactLavochkin

Selected References

Reinhard, R., Space missions to Halley's comet and related activities, ESA Bull., No. 29, 68-83, Feb. 1982.

Sagdeev, R. Z., et al., Vega spacecraft encounters with comet Halley, Nature, 321, No. 6067, 259-262, May 1986.

Harvey, B., The new Russian space programme from competition to collaboration, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England, 1996.

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