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Vega C Launch Ends In Failure (Update)

By Keith Cowing
December 20, 2022
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Vega C Launch Ends In Failure (Update)
Graphic on Arianespace TV as the Vega C launch diverged (yellow) from its planned trajectory (green)

Tuesday’s launch of the Arianespace Vega C rocket carrying two satellites ended when the second stage under performed. The payload has been lost.

According to Stéphane Israël, Arianespace’s CEO there was an underpressure detected on the Vega C rocket’s second stage Zefiro 40 motor causing a launch failure for the Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites built by Airbus. The under pressure was noted at T+2:27 minutes into the mission.

This was the second flight of the Vega C booster. This is also the third failure out of the eight Vega launches Arianespace and ESA have conducted. The Vega uses the same solid rocket motors that are also used in the yet-to-be-launched Ariane 6 booster.

ESA Update:

Arianespace announced early today the failure of Flight VV22 carrying Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites.

The Vega-C launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled on 20 December at 22:47 local time in French Guiana (03:47 CET/02:47 GMT, 21 December).. The lift-off, the mission and the separation of the first stage (P120C) were nominal. Following the nominal ignition of the second stage’s (Zefiro 40) engine around 144 seconds after lift-off, a decrease in the pressure was observed leading to the premature end of the mission. Under standard procedure, the order of destruction of the launcher was given by CNES, the launch safety authority; no damage to persons or properties occurred.

Arianespace and ESA immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission. This commission is tasked with analysing the reasons for the failure and defining the measures fulfilling all requisite safety and reliability conditions to allow the resumption of Vega-C flights. Composed of independent experts, the commission will work with Avio, Vega-C launch system prime contractor.

The inquiry commission is co-chaired by ESA’s Inspector General and the Arianespace Chief Technical Officer. More information will be shared as soon as the Commission will have progressed in its investigations.

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