Veronique and Vesta

The LRBA (Ballistics and Aeronautical Researches Laboratory) was created in May 1946, within the DEFA (Weapons Studies and Manufactures Directorate). This laboratory, in charge of the study of liquid propellant missiles and the associated ground equipment, undertook since 1948 the realization of a Surface-to-Air weapon system, the Parca (Self-propelled Radio-controlled Projectile Against Planes) which was tested in flight as from 1954.

Veronique N Veronique N


In March 1949, the DEFA decided to build a sounding rocket to allow, at the same time, the in-flight operation study of a liquid powered rocket engine and the upper atmosphere surveys. This rocket (Project 4213), baptized Veronique, was to be as simple and economic as possible. The complete vehicle was to measure 6 m, to weigh a ton at launch, and to be able to send a 60 kg payload to 65 km of altitude. The engine, cooled by double wall propellant circulation, was supplied with nitric acid and kerosene by tanks pressurization. Its 40 kN thrust creating a relatively weak acceleration, it was necessary to conceive a guidance system by unfolding four cables (55 m long) connected at the fins ends. This system was tested using solid rockets, the Veronique P2 and P6, in 1951 and 1952. The first vehicle equipped with the 40 kN liquid engine was the Veronique R (Reduced) of which the burning time had been limited to 6.5 sec instead of nominal 32 sec. It was tested at Suippes range in 1950 and 1951, then at Cardonnet site in early 1952.

The tests of the nominal version, Veronique N, began in 1952 in Hammaguir. Eleven Veronique N were launched there from May 1952 to April 1953, in three series of tests. The failures rate was significant because of low frequency combustion instability problems. In addition, the altitude of 65 km proved to be insufficient to carry out the surveys which interested the atmosphere physicists. It was thus decided to modify the injector to stabilize combustion and to lengthen the tanks to increase the apogee to 135 km with the same 60 kg payload. This version, Veronique NA (Normal Lengthened), was fired four times from Hammaguir between February and October 1954.

Veronique 61 Veronique 61

The true scientific career of Veronique started when the National Defense Scientific Action Committee subsidized the manufacturing of 15 sounding rockets for the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year (AGI). A new version, named Veronique AGI was born. Although externally similar to Veronique NA, this rocket was lighter and its simplified engine (simple wall) used turpentine in place of kerosene. This new fuel increased the specific impulse and decreased combustion instabilities. While preserving an approximately 40 kN thrust, Veronique AGI could reach 210 km of altitude. The first success was obtained with the second launch in March 1959. As a whole, 48 Veronique AGI were launched from Hammaguir and Kourou between 1959 and 1969, with a 81.5% success ratio.

Since 1961, an increase in the performances of this sounding rocket proved again necessary. Christened Veronique 61, a new version, equipped at once with a 60 kN thrust engine and lengthened tanks, was developed. Capable of carrying a 60 kg payload to 315 km of altitude, its first flight occurred in June 1964. Two years later, it was replaced by a Veronique 61M (Modified) variant, still lengthened and capable of sending up to 100 kg to 325 km of altitude. A total of 22 Veroniques 61 (3 in basic configuration and 19 in 61M version) were launched from Hammaguir and Kourou between 1964 and 1975, with a 90 % success ratio.

Vesta Vesta


In second half of the Fifties, the LRBA undertook the study of various concepts for leading to an improved Veronique, or Super-Veronique. Engines developing 80, 120, 160 and 250 kN were considered, for rockets intended to send 100 kg payloads at altitudes going from 350 to 600 km according to the version.
In 1962, the CNES placed order for a new rocket, named Vesta and using a 160 kN engine using nitric acid and turpentine. Vesta was to measure 10.2 m in length, 1 m in diameter, to weigh 5.1 t (without payload), and to be capable of sending 500 kg to 400 km of altitude.

After two static firings of the complete vehicle (except the empennage and the nosecone) occurred in 1964, five Vesta were launched from Hammaguir and Kourou between 1965 and 1969.

a/ Veronique rockets evolution
b/ Veronique launches
b.1/ preliminary versions
b.2/ operational versions
c/ Vesta launches
Listings with Christophe Rothmund's help (SEP, France)

a/ Veronique evolution

Veronique Veronique
Scale in meters

TypeMass (kg)Length (m)Thrust (kN)Duration (sec)Payload (kg)Apogee (km)
Notes: All Veronique were 55 cm in diameter

b/ Veronique launches

b.1/ preliminary versions
02 Aug 1950SPSVeronique R1TechnologyS ? (3 m)
05 Aug 1950SPSVeronique R2TechnologyS ? (8 m)
?? Apr 1951VRNVeronique P2TechnologyS
02 Oct 1951SPSVeronique R3TechnologyS ? (15 m)
05 Oct 1951SPSVeronique R4TechnologyS (1800 m)
06 Oct 1951SPSVeronique R5TechnologyS (1820 m)
25 Jan 1952CDTVeronique P6/1TechnologyS
26 Jan 1952CDTVeronique R7TechnologyPS Nosecone not jettisoned
28 Jan 1952CDTVeronique P6/2TechnologyS
28 Jan 1952CDTVeronique R6TechnologyS (1100 m)
30 Jan 1952CDTVeronique R8TechnologyS

a.2/ operational versions
20 May 1952HMGVeronique N1TechnologyF (19 km)
21 May 1952HMGVeronique N2TechnologyF (14 km)
22 May 1952HMGVeronique N3TechnologyS (60 km)
08 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N4TechnologyF (10 km)
09 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N5TechnologyF (<1 km)
13 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N7TechnologyF (4 km)
16 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N6TechnologyF (6 km)
17 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N9TechnologyF (10 km)
18 Nov 1952HMGVeronique N8TechnologyF (7 km)
18 Apr 1953HMGVeronique N11TechnologyF (3 km)
21 Apr 1953HMGVeronique N10TechnologyS (45 km)
20 Feb 1954HMGVeronique NA15TechnologyF (29 km)
21 Feb 1954HMGVeronique NA14TechnologyS (135 km)
17 Oct 1954HMGVeronique NA13TechnologyF (39 km)
29 Oct 1954HMGVeronique NA12VLF transmissionS (104 km)
07 Mar 1959HMGVeronique AGI18Na releaseF
10 Mar 1959HMGVeronique AGI17Na releaseS
12 Mar 1959HMGVeronique AGI16Na releaseS
23 Feb 1960HMGVeronique AGI23ScientificF
02 Mar 1960HMGVeronique AGI22Na releaseS
05 Mar 1960HMGVeronique AGI21Na releaseS
13 Jun 1960HMGVeronique AGI20Na releaseS
16 Jun 1960HMGVeronique AGI19Na releaseS
18 Jun 1960HMGVeronique AGI25ExplosiveeS
22 Jun 1960HMGVeronique AGI26ExplosiveS
11 Feb 1961HMGVeronique AGI27ScientificS
13 Feb 1961HMGVeronique AGI28ScientificF
15 Feb 1961HMGVeronique AGI29ScientificS
18 Feb 1961HMGVeronique AGI30ScientificF
22 Feb 1961HMGVeronique AGI24BiologyS (110 km)
10 Jun 1961HMGVeronique AGI31Double explosiveS
24 May 1962HMGVeronique AGI39ExplosiveS (168 km)
31 May 1962HMGVeronique AGI38ExplosiveS
01 Jun 1962HMGVeronique AGI41Double explosiveS
04 Jun 1962HMGVeronique AGI42Double explosiveF
06 Jun 1962HMGVeronique AGI43ExplosiveS
15 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI37BiologyS (120 km)
18 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI36BiologyPS (110 lm)
19 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI44TechnologyS (135 km)
22 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI46TechnologyS (120 km)
23 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI32Diffuse solar radiationS (175 km)
29 Oct 1962HMGVeronique AGI34VLF transmissionS (180 km)
20 Apr 1963HMGVeronique AGI35IonosphereS (175 km)
23 Apr 1963HMGVeronique AGI49IonosphereS (140 km)
01 May 1963HMGVeronique AGI45IonosphereS (160 km)
10 May 1963HMGVeronique AGI33Solar corona (UV) / PtrPS (135 km), no recovery
18 Jun 1963HMGVeronique AGI48Electron densityPS (160 km)
19 Jun 1963HMGVeronique AGI40Electron densityVF (38 km), Destroyed at 34 sec
18 Oct 1963HMGVeronique AGI47BiologyS (155 km)
24 Oct 1963HMGVeronique AGI50BiologyF (88 km)
14 Apr 1964HMGVeronique AGI51FU110 Atomic H (Ly-alpha), Solar X-raysPS (119 km)
08 Jun 1964HMGVeronique 61/75FU120 TechnologyS (260 km)
13 Jun 1964HMGVeronique 61/76FU120 TechnologyS (260 km)
04 Nov 1964HMGVeronique AGI53FU110 Atomic H (Ly-alpha), Solar X-raysS (152 km)
08 Nov 1964HMGVeronique AGI52FU111 UV Solar Astronomy / PtrS (98 km)
12 Feb 1965HMGVeronique AGI56FU100 Technology / PtrF (95 km), untimely fairing jettison
27 May 1965HMGVeronique 61/79FU144 Atomic H (Ly-alpha)VF (70 km)
22 Oct 1965HMGVeronique AGI54FU115 Electron densityS (210 km)
28 Oct 1965HMGVeronique AGI55FU115 Electron densityS (210 km)
24 Mar 1966HMGVeronique 61M/80FU155 TechnologyS (209 km)
04 Apr 1966HMGVeronique 61M/78FU145 Technology (Attitude control)VF (23 km)
06 Apr 1966HMGVeronique AGI57FU126 Solar corona (UV) / PtrS (130 km)
27 Jun 1966HMGVeronique AGI60FU154 Technology (recovery)S (123 km)
01 Oct 1966HMGVeronique 61M/77FU145 Technology + Ionosphere / StabPS (166 km)
24 Nov 1966HMGVeronique 61M/82FU158 Technology (recovery)PS (230 km)
09 Dec 1966HMGVeronique AGI59FU149 Ion Density, mass spectrometryS (122 km)
11 Jan 1967HMGVeronique 61M/84FU161 X-ray and UV astronomy / StabS (158 km)
13 Jan 1967HMGVeronique AGI61FU160 Solar corona (UV) / PtrS (123 km)
17 Jan 1967HMGVeronique 61M/85FU145b X-ray and UV astronomy / StabS (205 km)
24 Feb 1967HMGVeronique 61M/81FU176 Technology (recovery)S (200 km)
17 Mar 1967HMGVeronique AGI64FU174 Solar corona (UV) / PtrVF (32 km)
24 Mar 1967HMGVeronique 61M/86FU156 Ionosphere + BiologyS (365 km)
29 Mar 1967HMGVeronique 61M/87FU156 Ionosphere + BiologyS (305 km)
04 Apr 1967HMGVeronique 61M/88FU178 X-ray and UV astronomy / StabS (196 km)
09 Apr 1968KRUVeronique AGI62FU184 Technology (sea recovery)S (113 km)
25 Jul 1968KRUVeronique 61M/89FU185 Technology + X-ray astronomy / StabPS (185 km), no recovery
18 Dec 1968KRUVeronique 61M/83FU159 UV astronomy / StabPS (162 km), no recovery
22 Dec 1968KRUVeronique 61M/90FU159 X-ray and UV astronomy / StabPS (188 km), no recovery
20 Feb 1969KRUVeronique AGI63FU170 CIRCE, Mass spectrometryF (103 km), untimely fairing jettison
08 Jun 1971KRUVeronique 61M/93FU194 GESAIR, Ionosphere + BiologyS (206 km)
12 Jun 1971KRUVeronique 61M/94FU194 GESAIR, Ionosphere + BiologyS (211 km)
16 Dec 1971KRUVeronique 61M/92FU208 CISASPE, Ionosphere (active sounding) S (227 km)
17 Apr 1973KRUVeronique 61M/FU200 3SUV, UV solar astronomy / PtrS (200 km)
31 May 1975KRUVeronique 61M/FU216 FAUST, UV astronomy / StabSF (172 km)
Notes: CDT = Le Cardonnet; HMG = Hammaguir; KRU = Kourou; SPS = Suippes; VRN = Vernon

c/ Vesta launches

15 Oct 1965HMGVesta 01FU123 TechnologyS (187 km)
25 Oct 1965HMGVesta 02FU123 TechnologyS (109 km)
07 Mar 1967HMGVesta 04FU147 BiologyS (243 km)
13 Mar 1967HMGVesta 05FU147 BiologyS (234 km)
08 Nov 1969KRUVesta 06FU189 AstronomyS (204 km)
Notes: HMG = Hammaguir; KRU = Kourou

of the page





Please contact Jean-Jacques Serra <> for comments, corrections or questions