Europe’s access to space in jeopardy after Vega-C rocket failure | Popgen Tech
Flights of Europe’s new Vega-C rocket have been suspended pending an investigation into an overnight launch failure, French firm Arianespace said on Wednesday, leaving Europe with few paths into space.
Minutes after the Vega-C rocket lifted off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 22:47 local time (0147 GMT Wednesday) on Tuesday, its trajectory deviated from its programmed route and communications were lost, Arianespace said. .
The order to destroy the launcher, which carried two satellites built by Airbus, was then given by the French space agency CNES.
“The launcher fell” in international waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Arianespace’s chief technical officer, Pierre-Yves Tissier, told a press conference.
If successful, it would have been the first commercial launch—and second overall—for the Vega-C since its first flight on July 13.
The rocket was launched over the Atlantic Ocean and shot past 100 kilometers (62 miles) altitude and was more than 900 kilometers north of Kourou when the problem occurred.
Tissier said the “failure seems limited to Zephiro 40,” the second stage of the launcher built by Italian aerospace company Avio for the Vega-C.
Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo said the company took full responsibility for the failure.
The flight data has been recovered and will now be analyzed as part of an investigation to be jointly led by the European Space Agency and Arianespace.
The independent commission aims to “determine the cause of the failure and propose robust and long-lasting corrective actions to ensure a safe and reliable return to flight of Vega-C,” Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said on said the press conference.
Latest Europe space setback
The suspension leaves Europe with few options after numerous delays to the next-generation Ariane 6 rocket and canceled Russian cooperation on the Ukraine war.
Only two launchers remain from the previous generation Ariane 5, with the only other option being Vega-C’s predecessor Vega.
Otherwise, Europe has no way to launch satellites into orbit or heavy payloads into space until Ariane 6’s long-delayed first flight planned for late 2023—or when Vega-C flights resume.
Israel said that “neither Ariane 5 nor Ariane 6 is affected by the failure that occurred”.
The failure is the latest setback for the European Space Agency (ESA), which aims to make Europe more competitive in the fast-growing satellite market.
Elon Musk, the chief executive of US rival rocket maker SpaceX, tweeted that he was “sorry to hear” of the failure.
“It’s a sobering reminder of the difficulty of orbital spaceflight,” he added.
The Vega-6 rocket attempted to bring into orbit two Earth observation satellites built by European aerospace giant Airbus.
They were planned to join the Pleiades Neo constellation, which is capable of capturing very high-resolution images of any point on the globe several times a day.
The failure is a blow to Airbus, which developed the program, whose services are sold to both companies and the military.
Satellites that bring in commercial revenue are usually insured. An industry insider said the lost Pleiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites have been covered for 220 million euros ($233 million), potentially allowing Airbus to rebuild them.
Airbus did not comment when contacted by AFP.
Third failure in nine launches
Tuesday’s launch was originally scheduled for November 24.
However, it was delayed due to a faulty piece of equipment connected to the payload fairing, a type of nose cone, Arianespace CEO Israel told AFP, although the problem was unrelated to Tuesday’s failure.
Tuesday was the third failure out of the last nine launches of Vega or Vega-C.
It’s also a blow to Avio, which was involved in three of those failed launches. Avio’s share price fell by more than 9.5 percent on Wednesday.
As well as the Ariane 6 delays, Europe’s space sector has been further weakened in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this year, Moscow pulled its Soyuz rocket launchers and technical personnel from Kourou in response to EU sanctions over the Ukraine invasion.
In the absence of an alternative, ESA was forced to turn to SpaceX to launch two scientific missions.
© 2022 AFP
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