Sat. Sep 24th, 2022
The VV16 cargo will be trucked to the Vega Launch Zone in French Guiana.
enlarge The VV16 cargo will be trucked to the Vega Launch Zone in French Guiana.

European rocket firm Arianespace has been trying to launch a Vega rocket carrying dozens of small satellites for nearly a year.

First, the launch was delayed from mid-2019 after the Vega rocket failed in 15 flights for the first time. (That happened in July 2019.) Early this year, after the missile’s failure was investigated and corrected, Arianespace set a date for Vega’s return to the March 23 flight mission. But then the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread around the world, and the European spaceport in French Guiana was eventually closed for about three months.

Finally, the launch date was reset to June 18. The four-stage rocket and its payload from 53 individual satellites – ranging from 1 kg CubeSats to 500 kg mini satellites – were primed. Almost two weeks ago they all seemed to be launched with this “VV16” mission – then the forecasts turned unfavorable.

The Vega rocket has a fairly narrow launch corridor for polar missions, and winds in the upper atmosphere along this path were unfavorable on June 18. Winds persisted over the weekend (June 27 and 28) for new scheduled launch dates.

On Wednesday, Arianespace seemed to throw up its hands in frustration. “As no improvement in the weather situation is expected in the short term, Arianespace has decided to postpone flight VV16 until August 17, 2020, when the forecast will be more favorable based on wind modelling,” the launch company said in a press release. press release. “We understand the impatience of our 21 customers, and we share it.”

A seven-week delay because of the weather seems a bit exaggerated, so we decided to dig a little further.

Multiple factors

First, the forecasts for the next week or 10 days look bad when it comes to winds at the highest levels. However, this pattern is not necessarily going to last for the next seven weeks. Of Vega’s 15 launches, four were flown in the months of June, July and August, so the rocket could certainly be launched from South America in the summer.

However, the batteries aboard the tiny rocket (and on some of its satellites) will need to be recharged at some point. In this process, customer representatives appear to fly to French Guiana to perform this task, and there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the non-European part of France bordering Brazil.

Finally, Arianespace also has a commercial satellite launch mission underway on its larger Ariane 5 rocket, and this VA253 flight is scheduled for July 28. Because there is a minimum lead time of two weeks between launches at the spaceport in French Guiana, there was no time to reset the Vega rocket and its payloads for this mission.

And so the 16th launch of a Vega rocket, a critical return to mission flight that will also demonstrate the rocket’s viability as a small satellite launch vehicle, will be delayed by at least seven more weeks. And do the customers aboard the rocket worry? “Oh, the customers care,” Emiliano Kargieman, chief executive of Satellogic, said on Twitter Wednesday.

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.