The latest Arianespace launch failed. The Vega C of the VV22 mission, launched from the European launch center of Kourou in French Guiana missed the insertion into the orbit of two satellites: Pléiades Neo 5 & 6. According to the first data made public by the company, the cause of the failure seems to have occurred a few seconds after the separation of the rocket’s second stage, when ignited the Zefiro 40 performed below the nominal level, compromising the trajectory of the payloads.
The maximum altitude reached by the satellites was 110 km; they then returned without incident to the Atlantic Ocean. The causes of the anomaly have not been communicated, while the engineers are already analyzing the data available.
Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 should have joined and completed the new Airbus most advanced optical constellation for commercial, institutional, and governmental customers. These satellites will allow imaging at any point of the world, several times per day, at 30 cm of resolution with an imaging swath of 14km, the widest in its category.
They also have laser comms inter-satellite links with geostationary satellites to enable urgent acquisitions, just from 30 to 40 minutes, following a tasking request to swiftly respond to the most critical situations.
The Vega C
The new configuration of the Vega rocket is called Vega C and guarantees greater performances. The main improvement is the introduction of the Zefiro-40 solid-fuel second stage, which replaced the less powerful Zefiro-23. This allowed Ariane Space to load both satellites on the same rockets instead made two different launches like the previous Pléiades missions.
The failure of Vega C complicates both Arianespace and ESA plans, which are already behind schedule for the development of its rockets. The new launcher under development, the Ariane 6 is related to the Vega C, since they share many components.
Arianespace expected to launch Vega C four times a year and has 7 launches already booked. Arianespace and ESA immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission. This commission is tasked with analyzing the reasons for the failure and reliability conditions to allow the resumption of Vega-C flights.