The Arianespace Vega C VV22 launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled on December 20, 2022 at 10:47 p.m. (local time in French Guiana). The lift-off, the mission and the separation of the first stage (P120C) were nominal. Following the nominal ignition of the second stage’s (Zefiro 40) engine around 144 seconds after lift-off, a decrease in the pressure was observed that resulted in the premature end of the mission. Under standard procedure, the order of destruction of the launcher was given by CNES, the launch safety authority — no damage to persons or properties occurred.
Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission. This commission is tasked with analyzing the reasons for the failure and defining the measures fulfilling all requisite safety and reliability conditions to allow the resumption of Vega C flights. Composed of independent experts, the commission will work with Avio, Vega C launch system prime contractor.
The inquiry commission is co-chaired by the Inspector General of ESA and the Chief Technical Officer of Arianespace. More information will be shared as soon as the Commission has progressed in the investigations.
Update 3 posting…
Arianespace Flight VV22 via the Vega C launcher that was taking two Pléiades Neo satellites to their orbital slots came to end two minutes and 27 seconds into the liftoff, due to an anomaly with the Zeofire 40, second stage, propulsion system. An investigation is now underway to determine how and why this failure occurred and more details will be forthcoming.
Update 2 posting…
After the discovery of a defective equipment when arming the Vega C launcher for the Flight VV22, Arianespace has taken the decision to postpone the launch. In order to replace the equipment, the upper composite of the launcher will be taken back to the payload preparation facilities and the payload fairing will be opened for the intervention.
All the operations will be handled, in respect of the environmental requirements of the two Pléiades Neo satellites and in accordance with Arianespace’s quality policy. In order to secure both launch dates for Ariane 5 flight VA259 and Vega C flight VV22, Arianespace decided to update its manifest, swapping the two missions:
- The new targeted launch date for VV22 now is December 20;
- The new targeted launch date for VA259 –initially scheduled for December 14- now is December 13.
Update 1 posting…
Due to a defective equipment that needs to be replaced on the launcher, Flight VV22 – initially scheduled for November 24th from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana –must be postponed.
The Vega C launch vehicle and the two Pléiades Neo satellites are in safe conditions.
A new launch date, in December, will be shared as soon as possible.
On Thursday, November 24, 2022 at 10:47 pm local time (01:47 am (UTC) on Friday, November 25), Arianespace’s first Vega C mission will lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, with the 30cm resolution satellites Pléiades Neo 5 and 6. This first commercial flight follows the success, July 13, of Vega C inaugural launch operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).
After liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport, the Vega C launcher will fly powered by the first three stages for a little over seven minutes. The third stage ZEFIRO 9 will then separate from the upper composite, which comprises the AVUM+ upper stage and the two Pléiades Neo satellites. The AVUM+ stage will ignite its engine for the first time about nine and an half minutes, followed by a ballistic phase lasting approximately 35 minutes, in order to reach the injection altitude of the first satellite.
The AVUM+ stage will then restart its engine for a second burn lasting 2 minutes and 30 seconds to circularize the orbit at an altitude of 629 km before releasing the first satellite. The next step, 6 minutes and 39 seconds later, will be a 15 seconds RACS boost leading to a new ballistic phase lasting about 36 minutes. It will be interrupted by a third AVUM+ ignition phase lasting exactly 5 seconds, and will be followed by the release of the second satellite at an altitude of 614 km.
Approximately nine minutes later will occur the fourth and last AVUM+ ignition for a period of 61 seconds, that will deorbit the launcher — marking the end of mission VV22, one hour, 53 minutes and 55 seconds after liftoff.
Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 fully funded and manufactured by its operator Airbus, are the two final satellites of the Pléiades Neo constellation that will respectively be the 139th and 138th Airbus Defence and Space satellites to be launched by Arianespace as well as the 120th and 119th satellites launched by a launcher of the Vega family.
The first one, Pléiades Neo 3, has been successfully orbited by Vega Flight 18 on April 28, 2021, and the second one, Pléiades Neo 4, by Vega Flight 19 on August 16, 2021. Built using the latest Airbus’ innovations and technological developments, the constellation allows imaging any point of the globe, several times per day, at 30cm resolution. Highly agile and reactive, they can be tasked up to 15 minutes before acquisition, and send the images back to Earth within the following hour. Smaller, lighter, more agile, accurate and reactive than the competition, they are the first of their class whose capacity will be fully commercially available. Thanks to these state-of-the-art satellites, each step of the acquisition and delivery cycle offers top-level Earth observation services now and going forward for the next ten years.
Vega C, which stands for Consolidation, has been developed to better respond to customers’ needs based on the lessons learned from the first decade (2012-2022) of Vega operations. The launcher has been upgraded with more powerful first and second stage Solid Rocket Motors, bigger AVUM tanks and with a larger fairing that significantly increase payload mass (up to 2,350t in SSO – Sun-Synchronous Orbit) and double allowable volume.
The launcher also better meets the specific needs of small spacecraft, as a result of its improved SSMS (Small Spacecraft Mission Service) dispenser and to its AVUM+ that will allow seven re-ignitions. Vega C can thus achieve three different orbits for its multiple payloads on the same mission, instead of the two previously possible with Vega.
Vega C development program has been managed by ESA. It associates 12 of Member States of the Agency. Avio Spa (Colleferro, Italy) is the industrial prime contractor for both launch vehicle and interfacing ground infrastructure. Avio is also responsible for campaign operations and preparation of the launch vehicle up to lift-off. Avio hands over a “ready to fly” rocket to Arianespace, which sells the Vega C, defines the missions’ requirements, validates its flight worthiness, and operates it from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
During launch campaigns, Arianespace works closely with CNES, the French space agency and the launch range authority at the European Spaceport in Kourou, who is notably looking after the satellite preparation facilities besides being responsible for the protection of populations.