Spain's Satellite Sent to Space Disappeared After Launch

Pablo Tucker
November 19, 2020

France-based Arianespace said an initial investigation showed the first stages of the Vega launch vehicle had functioned as planned.

The Vega VV17 mission was launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 01:52 UTC on November 17. When the final stage of the rocket - known as AVUM - ignited, the spacecraft tumbled off course, leading to a "loss of mission", it said.

According to satellite launch company Arianespace, the trouble began around the eight-minute mark of the mission. It was the second major failure of this particular type of rocket within the last two years.

Lost as a result of the catastrophe was the French space agency's TARANIS satellite and Spain's SEOSAT-Ingenio Earth observer.

'Eight minutes after the lift-off and immediately after the ignition of the engine of the fourth stage of Vega - the AVUM stage - we have observed the degradation of the trajectory, ' Mr Israël said in a statement.

The company's chief technical officer, Roland Lagier, said data indicated the issue was down to wrongly installed cables in a system controlling the thrusters.

Arianespace said future launches, including three scheduled for later this year, shouldn't be affected by this latest setback.

He blamed quality control and "a series of human errors", for the problem.

In July 2019, a Vega rocket carrying a satellite into orbit on behalf of the United Arab Emirates failed during launch - with experts tracing the root cause to a faulty motor on the booster rocket.

Avio, the main contractor for the Vega Rocket, explained, "Tonight during the flight of the Vega VV17 ... there was an anomaly that caused a deviation from the route that caused the loss of the flight". Arianespace attributed that incident to a structural problem with Vega's second stage, which has since been resolved.

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