Failure of Vega-C rocket launch in French Guiana


PARIS — The launch of a European rocket carrying two Earth observation satellites failed and ditched in the sea less than three minutes after liftoff from a spaceport in French Guiana on Wednesday.

Arianespace, which provided the launch service, said a decrease in pressure was observed in the Vega C rocket’s second stage approximately 2 minutes and 22 seconds after liftoff,“ leading to the premature end of the mission.”

“Under standard procedure, the order of destruction of the launcher was given” by France’s CNES space agency, Arianespace said. “No damage to persons or properties occurred.”

The launch, operated by the European Space Agency, was meant to take two Earth observation satellites made by Airbus, Pleiades Neo 5 and 6, into orbit. The satellites would have been part of a constellation capable of taking images of any point on the globe with a resolution of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches).

Stefano Bianchi, ESA’s Vega program manager, said the incident was “a failure which hits us heavily.”

Together with Arianespace, the agency appointed an independent inquiry commission to analyze the failure and ensure the Vega program can resume, he said.

The focus of the investigation is the launcher’s second stage, a Zefiro 40 engine made by Italian company Avio, Bianchi said.

The Vega C successfully made its inaugural journey on July 13.

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