The bad news was made official on October 2 by the Task Force led by the European Space Agency and Avio, the manufacturer of Vega C, grounded since December 2022: the new European light launcher will not fly again for a year.
The sky remains decidedly gray above theEurope launchers: after the end of cooperation with the Russia and the use of its launcher Soyuzafter the delays of the new heavy launcher Ariane 6 while his predecessor Ariane 5 was retired this summer, this is the new light launcher Vega C (C, for consolidation) which is missing.
In December 2022, its first commercial flight (mission VV22) ended in a bitter failure, leading to the loss of its payloads (two satellites Pleiades Neo ofAirbus Defense and Space).
The dedicated commission of inquiry presented its conclusions three months later: the engine Zefiro 40 of the second stage of the launcher had been victim of the failure of a nozzle neck made of carbon-carbon composite, manufactured Ukraine.
Then, last June, a test carried out on the ground of a Zefiro 40 engine equipped with a neck this time supplied by ArianeGroupended in failure.
A whole design to review
The independent commission of inquiry, created by theEuropean Space Agency to examine this new anomaly, has completed its work.
She recommends reviewing the entire design of the nozzle, and carrying out one or two ground tests next year.
This means that Vega C would resume flights in the fourth quarter of 2024.
Or after a hiatus of almost two years…
“Europe is today in a difficult situation with its launchers,” recognized Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, recalling that “independent access to space is an absolute priority for Europe. »
The next launch of the original Vega is expected on October 7 since Guiana Space Center (mission VV23).
It will have to place 12 payloads in low orbit, including the Thai Earth observation satellite Theos 2built by Airbus Defense and Space.
Another launch of Vega, the last of the first version, is announced for the second quarter of 2024 (with French Earth observation satellites CO3D ?).
And one might wonder why Aviothe Italian manufacturer, does not propose to continue producing this first launcher until Vega C works perfectly again, without a transition period…