Vega-C VV21 with LARES-2 ready for launch as the gantry is being retracted on 13 July 2022 at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Vega-C brings a new level of performance to ESA's launch family. With new first and second stages and an uprated fourth stage, Vega-C increases performance to about 2.3 t in a reference 700 km polar orbit, from the 1.5 t capability of its predecessor, Vega.

ESA suffers a big loss as Vega C will remain on the ground for several months

Results of the Commission indicate that the loss of the Vega C during the VV22 mission was caused by an over-erosion of the throat insert of the nozzle.

Today, Mar. 03, 2023, ESA and Arianespace presented the results of the investigation of the Independent Enquiry Commission relative to the loss of flight VV22, involving the Vega C rocket.

The Commission established that the cause of the failure of the second stage was “an unexpected thermo-mechanical over-erosion of the carbon-carbon throat insert of the nozzle“, and Arianspace stated that more tests will be conducted to confirm this hypothesis.

Failure of the Vega-C during the live streaming. In green the expected trajectory, in yellow the actual one. Credits: Arianespace
Failure of the Vega-C during the live streaming. In green, there is the expected trajectory, while in yellow the actual one. Credits: Arianespace

As declared in this morning’s press conference, since the criteria used to accept the throat insert were not sufficient enough to establish certain reliability, a new carbon-carbon-based throat insert will be implemented with a further static fire of the Zefiro 40 motor. We will be able to see the Vega C flight again in late 2023:

The nozzle was produced in Ukraine, by a company called Yuzhnoye. This company was selected during the design phase of Vega C and the nozzles were produced before the start of the war.

Furthermore, the Commission communicated that their determinations do not affect the Vega launcher since it relies on different motors with respect to that of the Vega C. Following that, Arianespace will assign a mission to be launched before the end of summer 2023 to one of its two remaining Vega, modifying its launch schedule.


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About Vega C

Vega C is the newest ESA launcher, more performing, and with a greater payload volume with respect to Vega. The rocket is developed by ESA and AVIO, while Arianespace is responsible for commercial exploitation.

ESA’s new Vega-C rocket lifted off for its inaugural flight VV21 at 15:13 CEST/13:13 UTC/10:13 local time from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. With new first and second stages and an uprated fourth stage, Vega-C increases performance to about 2.3 t in a reference 700 km polar orbit, from the 1.5 t capability of its predecessor, Vega. Credits: ESA
Vega-C rocket lifting off for its inaugural flight VV21 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Credits: ESA

The rocket is characterized by three stages:

  • The first stage is composed of P120-C, a solid rocket motor developed by AVIO and ArianeGroup. With a diameter of 3.4m and a length of 11.7m, it produces an average thrust of 4.500 kN. This stage will be mounted on the Ariane 6 launch vehicle.
  • The second stage exploits another new element: the Zefiro 40 motor. This is again a solid rocket motor developing an average thrust of 1.304 kN.
  • The third stage, called Zefiro-9, is taken from Vega.

The upper stage AVUM+, or Attitude Vernier Upper Module, ensures attitude control and precise orbital positioning and is designed for extended stays in space. 

The hot firing of the development model of the P120C solid fuel rocket motor at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 16 July 2018, proves the design for use on Vega-C next year and on Ariane 6 from 2020. The P120C is 13.5 m long and 3.4 m in diameter, and uses solid fuel in a case made of carbon composite material built in a single segment. It will replace the current P80 as the first stage motor of Vega-C. Two or four P120Cs will be strapped onto Ariane 6 as boosters for liftoff. This test was a collaboration between ESA, France’s CNES space agency, and Europropulsion under contract to Avio and ArianeGroup.
The hot firing of the development model of the P120C solid fuel rocket motor at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 16 July 2018. Credits: ESA/CNES

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Giovanni Facchinetti

Giovanni Facchinetti

Space Engineering student from Bergamo, Italy. Founder and content creator, sometimes I write articles here.
In my free time, I love to play football, meet new people and traveling.

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