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Astronomy and Space Exploration Reporting

Arianespace’s Vega launcher has failed

Vega, the most reliable and versatile launcher in the world in its category, has lost its beauty. On the night of 10 to 11 July, Arianespace’s light launcher exploded about two minutes after launch, resulting in the loss of the satellite it was carrying. Arianespace and ESA have set up an independent Commission of Inquiry.

After five days of delays, caused by strong winds over the Guiana Space Center, the VV15 mission launcher Vega had finally been authorized to take off on the night of July 10 to 11. This flight was the sixth launch of the year for Arianespace and the fifteenth with the Vega launcher since the beginning of its operation at the Guiana Space Center (CSG) in 2012.

Vega, the smallest launcher in the Arianespace range, was to be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit , at an altitude of 611 kilometers. For this flight, the performance requested from the launcher was 1,279 kilograms, including 1,197 kilograms corresponding to the take-off weight of Falcon Eye 1.

But after just over two minutes of flight, when the second Zephiro 23 solid propellant stage was lit, an ” anomaly ” appeared on the launcher, causing the mission to end prematurely. the loss of the launcher and its payload. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace immediately decided to mandate an independent Commission of Inquiry. Its mission is to analyze the reasons for this failure and to define the necessary measures to implement for a return flight of Vega in all the required security conditions.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, the president of CNES, said in a statement: “This failure of Vega reminds us once again that we are doing a difficult job, where the border between success and failure is extremely tenuous.”

It was the fifteenth flight of the European Light Launcher, commissioned in February 2012, which had so far posted a 100% success rate. In particular, the European Light Launcher launched the IXV atmospheric reentry demonstrator, the Sentinel 2 satellites, Lisa Pathfinder and Aeolus. Its next mission, initially scheduled for 9 September, was suspended during the investigation.

The other launchers of Arianespace, Ariane 5 and Soyuz, are obviously not concerned by this prohibition. Preparations for the next Ariane 5 mission are continuing at the Guiana Space Center with the objective of a flight on 24 July.

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