WASHINGTON — Arianespace and the European Area Company will set up an unbiased fee to investigate the Vega C launch failure Dec. 20 that resulted within the lack of two satellites and new questions on the way forward for European house entry.
Arianespace and ESA introduced Dec. 21 they may collectively create an unbiased inquiry fee to establish the reason for the launch failure and decide the steps wanted to return the Vega C to flight. The committee will probably be chaired by ESA’s inspector basic and Arianespace’s chief technical officer and be staffed with “unbiased specialists,” the corporate and company stated.
In a brief on-line presentation Dec. 21 — billed as a press convention however with out taking any questions from media — officers supplied just a few further particulars concerning the failure. Pierre-Yves Tissier, Arianespace’s chief technical officer, confirmed that the failure concerned the Vega C’s second stage, a stable motor referred to as the Zefiro-40 or Z-40. “The failure appears restricted to the Z-40,” he stated.
After a nominal burn by the rocket’s P120C first stage, the Zefiro-40 ignited and carried out usually for seven seconds. “After seven seconds, we noticed a progressive lower of the chamber stress as much as 208 seconds” after liftoff, he stated. At that time, “the stress dropped down all of the sudden.” A number of electronics models on the stage then failed, he stated.
That matched tracking video shown during the launch webcast. At about three and a half minutes after liftoff, the plume from the engine modified look, brightening and increasing. Round that point the rocket started to diverge from its trajectory displayed on the webcast.
Tissier stated that vary security shortly thereafter terminated the launch. The automobile and its payload fell into the Atlantic Ocean out of hurt’s approach. “We’ve got recovered all the information from the flight, so we’re in place to research all these knowledge,” he stated.
Stefano Bianchi, head of flight applications at ESA’s house transportation directorate, confirmed the main target of the investigation will probably be on the Zefiro-40 stage. That motor is an upgraded model of the Zefiro-23 from the unique Vega. The Zefiro-23 was blamed for a July 2019 Vega launch failure that destroyed a Falcon Eye imaging satellite tv for pc for the UAE.
“The engine was certified on the bottom by two profitable firing checks,” he stated of the Zefiro-40, in addition to the primary, profitable Vega C launch in July.
“In our capability as the economic prime contractor, to start with we take full cost of the duty for this Vega C failure,” stated Giulio Ranzo, chief govt of Avio. Shares within the firm, buying and selling on the Borsa Italiana change, fell 9.5% in buying and selling Dec. 21.
He stated Avio and its suppliers would totally help the unbiased investigation into the failure and “observe rigorously the suggestions it would provide you with to enhance in a radical method the flightworthiness of this new launcher.”
Neither Ranzo nor others on the presentation estimated how lengthy the investigation and return-to-flight actions would take. After the July 2019 Vega launch failure, the automobile was grounded for greater than a 12 months, returning to flight with a profitable launch in September 2020.
The rocket’s subsequent launch, in November 2020, failed due to incorrectly linked cables within the management system of the Avum higher stage. Vega returned to flight in April 2021.
The Vega C failure is one other setback for Europe’s house entry capabilities, which have additionally suffered from in depth delays within the growth of the Ariane 6, whose first launch has slipped to late 2023, and withdrawal of the Soyuz rocket from French Guiana after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Stéphane Israël, chief govt of Arianespace, famous on the presentation that the Vega drawback doesn’t have an effect on both the Ariane 5 or Ariane 6. The Ariane 6 particularly makes use of the identical P120C motor that powers Vega C’s first stage for its strap-on boosters, however the P120C labored as anticipated on the Vega launch. The Ariane 5 has no such hyperlink to the Vega C, however there are solely two launches of that automobile left, that are anticipated to happen within the first half of 2023.
“We’re dedicated to arrange and implement a long-lasting, profitable return to flight of Vega C,” Israël stated, however didn’t estimate how lengthy that will take.
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