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.
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:
.@arianespaceceo says that Vega return to flight will happen by the end of summer. Then Vega C before the end of 2023. Sentinel-1C is the most probable passenger for this mission.— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) March 3, 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.
First semester of 2023 will be full with the implementations of actions.— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) March 3, 2023
End of Sumer 2023 Vega will return to flight, with a more strict indipendent control on Vega from ESA.
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.
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.