The second mission of the new European Vega C rocket did not go according to plan.
The medium-lift Vega C took off from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Tuesday (Dec. 20) at 8:47 p.m. EDT (10:47 p.m. local time; 0147 GMT Dec. 21), carrying two Airbus satellites. . Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging constellation.
The first stage of the rocket, known as the P120C, did its job. But the second stage, called Zefiro 40, didn’t.
“About 2 minutes and 27 seconds after liftoff, an anomaly occurred on Zefiro 40, resulting in the termination of the Vega C mission,” representatives for the French company operating Vega C, Arianespace, said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening. Data analyzes are ongoing to determine the reasons for this failure.
Related: Rocket history
Vega C was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and operated by Arianespace.
The 115-foot (35-meter) four-stage rocket is a more powerful version of the Vega rocket, which first flew in 2012. The Vega-C rocket can carry about 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms) of payload up to 435 miles. High (700 km) sun-synchronous orbit, compared to 3,300 lb (1,500 kg) for the older rocket, according to Arianespace (Opens in a new tab).
The two spacecraft lost due to Tuesday’s failure, Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6, together weighed 4,359 pounds (1,977 kilograms). The duo was heading into a sun-synchronous orbit, where it would have completed the Pléiades Neo constellation for Earth imaging from Airbus.
“The array consists of four identical satellites, built using the latest Airbus innovations and technological developments, and allows imaging of any point in the world, several times a day, at a height of 30 cm. [12 inches] Resolution,” Arianespace wrote in a mission description for Vega C (Opens in a new tab).
“It is agile and interactive, and can be assigned a mission for up to 15 minutes before acquiring it and sending images back to Earth within the next hour,” Arianespace added. “Smaller, lighter, more agile, more accurate and more engaging than competitors, they are the first in their class whose capacity will be fully commercially available.”
Vega Sea has one trip under its belt before Tuesday. In July 2022, the rocket successfully lifted LARES-2, a 650-pound (295 kg) satellite developed by the Italian Space Agency, as well as six ride-on cubes.
The mission was originally supposed to take off on Tuesday, November 24. But Arianespace delayed it nearly a month to replace the faulty equipment on the rocket, a process that required a massive launch Open payload gift for Vega C (Opens in a new tab) in a processing facility in Kourou.
Additional analyzes should attempt to determine if the defective equipment had anything to do with the launch failure. We should learn more on Wednesday (21st December); Arianespace plans to hold a teleconference at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT).
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