Arianspace’s Vega rocket’s overnight launch failed after reaching space, observing France and Spain one satellite each. The failure represents the second in two years when Vega set an impeccable record in its first six years of service.
The Vega is designed for relatively small satellites, typically handling a total weight in the region of about 1,000 kg, although it can lift heavier objects in shorter orbits or carry lighter ones more. Space travel is driven by a stack of three solid rocket phases; Once in space, a state liquid-fueled rocket can perform multiple burns that carry payloads to specific orbits.
Vega started with a lossless launch record, its first loss in 2019 averaging two years before its solid six booster failure. After investigating that failure, the rocket returned to service in two years, with a successful launch months earlier.
Last night’s flight featured solid rockets, which carried the top tier and satellites north of the Atlantic toward a polar orbit. From there, the upper platform had to handle two satellites to be deposited in separate orbits. The larger of the two was Spain’s SEOSAT-Ingenio, an earth-imaging satellite with a wide-field color camera capable of resolving features up to 10 meters. The second was a French satellite named Taris, designed to gather data on some extreme events that occur with thunderstorms.
After reaching an altitude of more than 200 km, there was something wrong with the liquid-fueled phase. While it is not entirely clear at the time, which, in the words of Arianspace CEO Stephen Israel, “failed,” the momentum was no longer nominal. “This deprived the upper phase and the trajectory employed by the satellites, and Arianspace lost control of the vehicle shortly after. The spacecraft returned to Earth where the upper phase was expected to fall into an area that was completely Is uninhabitable from
The failure occurred at a stage of launch where Arianspace is able to obtain detailed telemetry data from tracking stations in North America. If the failure were to occur after the rocket fell on the pole, the company would have to wait for the upper stage and face the payload to fall within the limits of the Australian tracking station before collecting any further details.
The company’s initial investigation focused on liquid-fueled fourth-stage engines, specifically “a problem related to the fourth-stage AVU nozzle activation system integration,” which was most likely to cause loss of control of the launcher. . “Arianspace has already named a European Space Agency official who will lead the investigation into the failure, which will focus on why the problem was not captured and corrected before launching.