The Italian Vega-C launch vehicle, which has been grounded since the failure of its first commercial flight in December 2022, will not fly again until the fourth quarter of 2024 at the earliest. The European Space Agency announced this on Monday.
On December 21, Arianespace’s Vega-C launch vehicle lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana as planned, but suffered a loss of pressure shortly after the second stage ignited, about 144 seconds after liftoff. The decision to destroy the launch vehicle was made according to standard procedures. The satellites on board were also lost.
look. The European Vega launch vehicle was lost shortly after launch
An independent investigation committee subsequently recommended, among other things, changes to the Zefiro40 engine for the second stage. A new material was used for part of the nozzle, but the design itself was not modified, as was explained during a press conference held by the European Space Agency on Monday. However, at the end of June, things went wrong during a static test of that modified engine, with the nozzle sustaining severe damage.
The investigation committee concluded that the new material itself was not the problem, but that the nozzle design had to adapt to the different thermo-mechanical properties of that material, compared to the material that had been previously used. After these modifications, the engine will have to be tested on the ground at least two more times to verify its proper operation.
Fourth quarter 2024
Taking these recommendations into account, “Vega-C is expected to fly again in the last quarter of 2024,” the European Space Agency said on Monday. If all goes well, there will be five launches in 2025 and four or five in the following years.
The Vega-C problems do not affect the previous version of the Vega launch vehicle. But there are only two versions left that can be released. The first launch is scheduled to take place on Friday in Kourou, while the second will take place in the second quarter of 2024.
ESA is also facing delays in the launch of another vehicle, Ariane 6, which is currently scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2024.
The last flight, Ariane-5, was successfully launched
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