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November 17, 2020 - Human error blamed for Vega launch failure:
November 18, 2020 - Failed Launch Mission Costs France, Spain Satellites Worth $373 Million
A Vega rocket lifted off Nov. 16, but its payload of two satellites were lost when the rocket's fourth stage malfunctioned.
Arianespace executives said Nov. 17 that the failure of a Vega launch the previous day was caused when the rocket’s upper stage tumbled out of control due to incorrectly installed cables in a control system.
In a call with reporters, Roland Lagier, chief technical officer of Arianespace, said the first three stages of the Vega rocket performed normally after liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, at 8:52 p.m. Eastern Nov. 16. The Avum upper stage then separated and ignited its engine.
The launch mission of two French and Spanish satellites on Tuesday, November 17, has failed, leading to losses estimated at $373 million.
Arianespace, the company operating the launch rocket, announced the mission’s failure soon after it deviated from its trajectory.
What is a Vega Rocket?
Vega (Italian: Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata, or French: Vecteur européen de génération avancée, or English: European Vector of Advanced Generation meaning "Advanced generation European carrier rocket"), is an expendable launch system in use by Arianespace jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Development began in 1998 and the first launch took place from the Centre Spatial Guyanais on 13 February 2012.
The rocket is designed to launch small payloads - 300 to 2500 kg satellites for scientific and Earth observation missions to polar and low Earth orbits. The reference Vega mission is a polar orbit bringing a spacecraft of 1500 kg to an altitude of 700 km.
The rocket, named after Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, is a single-body launcher (no strap-on boosters) with three solid rocket stages: the P80 first stage, the Zefiro 23 second stage, and the Zefiro 9 third stage. The upper module is a liquid rocket called AVUM. The improved version of the P80 stage, the P120C, will be used as the side boosters of the Ariane 6. Italy is the leading contributor to the Vega program (65%), followed by France (13%). Other participants include Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.
What is Arianespace?
Arianespace SA is a multinational company founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial launch service provider. It undertakes the operation and marketing of the Ariane programme. The company offers a number of different launch vehicles: the heavy-lift Ariane 5 for dual launches to geostationary transfer orbit, the Soyuz-2 as a medium-lift alternative, and the solid-fueled Vega for lighter payloads.
As of May 2017, Arianespace had launched more than 550 satellites in 254 launches over 36 years (236 Ariane missions minus the first 8 flights handled by CNES, 17 Soyuz-2 missions and 9 Vega missions). The first commercial flight managed by the new entity was Spacenet F1 launched on 23 May 1984. Arianespace uses the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana as its main launch site. Through shareholding in Starsem, it can also offer commercial Soyuz launches from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. It has its headquarters in Évry-Courcouronnes, Essonne, France.
France must have said, "sacré bleu" - a French expression of surprise, exasperation, or dismay.
"Sacré bleu, la fusée a échoué!" (the rocket failed!)