Early today Arianespace’s Vega rocket failed, for the second time in its last three launches, to put two satellites into orbit.
A liquid-fueled upper stage — known as the Attitude and Vernier Upper Module, or AVUM — was supposed to fire four times Monday night to place the Spanish SEOSAT-Ingenio Earth observation satellite and the Taranis research spacecraft from the French space agency CNES into slightly different orbits at an altitude of roughly 420 miles (676 kilometers) .
But something went wrong just after the first ignition of the AVUM fourth stage. “After the first nominal ignition of the last stage engine, an anomaly has occurred, which caused a trajectory deviation entailing the loss of the mission,” said Avio, the Vega rocket’s Italian prime contractor, in a statement. “Data analyses are in progress to determine the causes.”
This is bad new for Europe’s space effort. It will likely but a crimp in the development of their two next generation rockets, the Ariane 6 and the Vega-C, as the upper stage that failed involves all the contractors building those rockets, Airbus and Avio.
The failure of this particular engine also badly damages the future of the two Ukrainian contractors, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash, who built it. They have lost all business with Russia because of the war between those two countries, and now have this failure to darken their resume with the rest of the world.
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