Arianespace announced yesterday that it has pushed back its first Vega rocket launch since the spring of 2019 (when the rocket failed) for seven more weeks, until August 17, 2020.
They had been trying to get the rocket off the ground this past week, but had been forced to scub several times because of high winds. They claim this long new delay is to wait until the weather improves, which really doesn’t make sense. Eric Berger at Ars Technica did some digging to find that other scheduling issues, including the odious lock down rules because of the Wuhan panic, were the really reason for the additional seven week delay. They have to recharge the batteries on the rocket, but don’t have time to do it before another launch is set to occur.
This process appears to involve customer representatives flying into French Guiana to perform this task, and there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the non-European part of France that borders Brazil.
Finally, Arianespace also has a commercial satellite launch mission upcoming on its larger Ariane 5 rocket, and this VA253 flight has been scheduled for July 28. Because there is a minimum of a two-week turnaround time between launches at the spaceport in French Guiana, there was not time to reset the Vega rocket and its payloads before this mission.
With these rules and launch limitations, Arianespace is going to have increasing problems competing with the newer launch companies, all of whom are aiming, like SpaceX, to have almost instantaneous launch turn-arounds.
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