A Spanish land imaging satellite with a combined value of about $ 200 million and a European Vega rocket came back to Earth soon after launching from French Guiana for a French research investigation.
Both satellites were destroyed in the crash, the second launch failure in the final three flights of Europe’s Vega rocket program.
The 98-foot-long (30-meter) Vega Launcher blew off the European-powered Guyana Space Center in South America at 8:52:20 pm EST Monday (0152: 20 GMT Tuesday). Heading north of the Atlantic Ocean, three solid-fueled rocket stages fired in succession to propel the rocket and its two satellite payloads to approximately 17,000 mph in the Vega – about 7.6 kilometers per second – just to achieve orbit. Shy of the required velocity.
A liquid-fueled upper stage – known as the Attitude and Vernier Upper Module, or AVUM – was launched Monday night at four to put the Spanish Cesat-Ingenio Earth Observation satellite and the Tarnis research spacecraft slightly ahead of the French space agency CNES The bar was about to fire. Various orbits at an altitude of about 420 miles (676 kilometers).
But just after the first ignition of the AVUM fourth stage something went wrong.
“After the first nominal ignition of the final stage engine, a discrepancy has arisen, which triggered the loss of the mission,” Veja rocket’s Italian prime contractor Avio said in a statement. “Data analyzes are in progress to determine the cause.”
A live webcast produced by Vega rocket launch operator Arianspace showed the flight flying normally in the first eight minutes of the mission. Immediately after the ignition of the AVUM upper stage by the Director of Operations inside the launch control center, the data displayed on the webcast showed the rocket to lose velocity and deviate from its planned trajectory.
Arianspace put the webcast on standby to assess data from the rocket. The webcast later resumed and Arianspace confirmed that the launch had failed.
“We can now confirm that the mission has been lost,” said Arianspace CEO Stephen Israel. “After eight minutes of liftoff, and immediately after the ignition of the fourth stage engine, the Vega – AVUM stage – we have seen a drop in the trajectory.
“This means that the momentum was no longer nominal, so we have seen this decline,” Israel continued.
If it had reached orbit, the rocket’s upper stage was expected to fly more than half an hour after it was flown to the Gallot ground station in the spaceport of French Guiana. The ground teams received no signal from the rocket.
“I would like to offer my deepest apologies to my clients for this mission,” Israel said. “Very sad for ESA and for Spain and for CNES… we have to analyze now to understand. Our experts are now consolidating the data they have, and we will gather a press conference (Wednesday). “
Arianespace launched light-class Vega rockets, heavy-lift Ariane 5 rockets and Russian middle-class Soyuz vehicles from French Guiana.
The Vega rocket is capable of placing 3,300 pounds – 1.5 metric tons – of payload into a 435-mile-high (700 kilometers) polar orbit. After the rocket’s inauguration in 2012, the Vega program completed 14 consecutive successful flights.
But a Vega rocket failed on a July 2019 mission with the Falcon i1 military spy satellite to the United Arab Emirates. Investigators discovered the cause of a “thermo-structural failure” on the forward dome of the Veja rocket’s solid-fueled second stage, which caused the in-flight breakup of the launch vehicle.
The Vega rocket returned to service with a successful launch Sept 2 that brought 53 small satellites into orbit for many international customers. In addition to signaling the operation of the Vega rocket, the Sept 2 rideshare launch showcased a new multi-satellite dispenser intended to help Arianspace attract more small satellite launch business.
An advanced rocket called the Vega C is scheduled to be launched for the first time in mid-2021 with first and second stage motors. The Vega C will be able to orbit 50 percent more payload mass than the original version of the Vega rocket.
The AVUM upper stage structure is manufactured by Airbus, and Ukrainian rocket contractors Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash supply the main engines of the AVUM stage, which consume hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants.
Spain’s SEOSAT-Ingenio satellite was mounted in the upper position of the Vespa dual-payload dispenser of the Vega rocket, while France’s Tarnis research payload launched into the lower berth of the Vega payload shroud.
According to a press kit released by Aerospace, the SEOSAT-Ingenio manufactured by Airbus in Spain weighed around 1,650 pounds (750 kg). By carrying two optical cameras, the satellite was designed with an imaging resolution of approximately 8.2 feet or 2.5 meters in a black-white. Its cameras were expected to take pictures with swaths 34 miles (55 kilometers) wide.
The spacecraft’s observation equipment would have collected data in blue, green, red and near-infrared wavelengths, and the satellite was designed to look sideways into the image areas on each part of its ground track. The mission’s data were expected to help scientists, policy makers, and other users track land-use changes.
Primarily designed for civilian use, SEOSAT-Ingenio was to collect imagery for the European Commission’s Copernicus program, which includes a fleet of dedicated sentinel environmental surveillance satellites. As a contributing mission to Copernicus’ fleet, SEOSAT-Ingenio was expected to distribute the data collected by Sentinel satellites worldwide and free them of charge.
“SEOSAT is a very versatile satellite and works on many applications ranging from agriculture to disaster management, fisheries, wildfires, there are many (areas) where SEOSAT can be used,” Joseph Aschaber, Earth Director of observation programs said before launch European Space Agency.
ESA developed SEOSAT-Ingenio on behalf of the Spanish government, which funded the mission and owned the satellite. ESA also organized a data pipeline to distribute SEOSAT-Ingenio imagery to global users, and was prepared to oversee commissioning after the satellite’s initial activation and launch, before handing over control to Spanish engineers at ESA operators in Germany Was.
Designed for a mission of at least seven years, the spacecraft was expected to take images mainly in Spain, other parts of Europe, North Africa and Latin America. But SEOSAT-Ingenio’s class would have enabled worldwide coverage, and its geographic reach would have influenced the world.
Prior to the launch, Ashbacker said, “CSAT-Ingenio will help us better understand climate change.” “For example, an important parameter in climate change is land use change, change from agricultural areas to urban areas, or change from forest areas to non-forest areas. CSAT, through its regular operation and regular monitoring of the land surface Definitely helps a lot in better understanding a very important parameter of climate change. ”
Another goal of the SEOSAT-Ingenio project, which the Spanish government closed in 2007, was to promote a growing Spanish space industry. About 80 percent of the spacecraft was built in Spain, while only half of the previous Spanish government satellites were built in Spain, according to Lomba Ferreras.
Juan Carlos Cortés, director of space and dual programs at the Spanish Center for the Development of Industrial Technology, assisted the SEOSAT-Ingenio project cost about 200 million euros, or $ 236 million.
The French Tarnis research satellite was designed to trace the origin of mysterious luminous events with thunder. These transient luminous phenomena, or TLEs, are electrical discharges that last a few milliseconds, and are uncertain of the scientific mechanisms and physics that produce them.
TLEs manifesting themselves in the form of red sprites and blue jets sometimes appear on dark nights, especially from aircraft. Phenomena, known as fictitious dwarfs, are the most difficult to detect in need of specialized photographic equipment.
Long graded with sporadic observations, which were spread word-of-mouth, bright electrical explosions above the thunder of lightning were first documented in 1989 by ground-based observations and instruments on spacecraft. Scientists have little knowledge about how discharges begin near the edge of space, or how they reach such high levels in the atmosphere.
The French space agency CNES-led Tarani may have tried to ignore what caused these small hailstorms, and how TLEs can affect the atmosphere or conditions in space.
The 385-pound (175-kg) Taranis satellite “will be able to detect these events and record their light and radiation signals at precisely the resolution, as well as the electromagnetic disturbances that they produce in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere , “CNES said a press release before the unsuccessful launch.
Devices aboard Taranis include cameras, X-rays and gamma-ray detectors, electron detectors, a magnetometer, and sensors that detect plasma and electric fields in space.
Built for a two- to four-year mission, Taranis would also have studied terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs, the brief burst of gamma-ray photons that left thunderstorms around the world.
“Tarnis is the first mission of magnetic and magnetic measurements to improve our understanding of optical, gamma, energetic particles and these phenomena,” said Jean-Louise Pincon, head of the Taranis mission of CNRS, France’s national scientific research center. “Eventually, once the generation mechanism is fully understood, we will have the possibility to estimate the actual effects of TLE and TGF on the physics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere.”
Pineson said CNES spent about 115 million euros, or $ 136 million, on the Tarnis project, it said.
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