The ending of 2022 did not go well for Europe as its most powerful Vega C rocket failed completely in its second mission and lost 2 satellites just after the 2 minutes 27 seconds launch.
Image credits: Wikimedia commons
A quick introduction to Vega C rocket
Arianespace claims that Vega C is the most powerful Vega yet. The four-stage, 115-foot-tall (35 meters) Vega rocket, which made its initial flight in 2012, has been upgraded to be more powerful. As opposed to the previous rocket’s 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms), the Vega C can carry roughly 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms) of payload to a 435-mile-high (700 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit.
The Vega C had completed one flight before Tuesday, December 20 2022. The Italian Space Agency’s LARES-2 satellite, weighing 650 pounds (295 kilograms), and six additional CubeSats were successfully launched by the rocket in July 2022.
According to a mission description for the Vega C satellite from Arianespace, “four identical spacecraft comprise the constellation, which allows for multiple daily images of the entire globe at a resolution of 30 centimeters (12 inches).”
How did this happen?
The launch date for this mission was originally set for November 24 2022. However, Arianespace put up the launch by over a month to replace problematic parts on the rocket, which included opening the Vega C’s payload fairing at the Kourou’s processing facility.
Image credits: Unsplash
Medium-weighted Vega C, which carried two satellites named Pléiades Neo 5 & Pléiades Neo 6 for Airbus’ Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging constellation was launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Tuesday (Dec. 20, 2022) at 8:47 p.m. EST (10:47 p.m. local time; 0147 GMT on Dec. 21, 2022).
Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6, the two spacecraft that faltered on Tuesday and were lost, collectively weighed 4,359 pounds (1,977 kilograms). Together, they would have completed Airbus’ Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging system when they reached sun-synchronous orbit.
Reports after this incident
Arianespace reported that a malfunction on the Zefiro 40 occurred approximately 2 minutes and 27 seconds after the takeoff leading to the ending of the Vega C mission additional investigations will likely aim to identify whether the malfunctioning hardware played a role in this launch incident.