Thursday, June 8, 2023
HomeNature NewsEurope’s backlog of house missions worsened by rocket woes

Europe’s backlog of house missions worsened by rocket woes

Vega-C rocket lifting off from its launch pad at the Kourou space base, French Guiana.

The Vega C rocket failed a couple of minutes after launching on 20 December.Credit score: JM Guillon/AP/Shutterstock

A European rocket’s failure to launch in December was brought on by a faulty half produced in Ukraine, an official investigation has discovered. The Vega C, which had its maiden flight solely final July, will now be grounded at the least till the tip of the 12 months, which may exacerbate a backlog of missions ready to launch.

The delay is the most recent a sequence of setbacks which have severely restricted Europe’s launch capabilities. “It is a second when we have to mirror deeply how we regain impartial entry to house for Europe,” mentioned Josef Aschbacher, director basic of the European Area Company (ESA), at a press briefing on 3 March.

Vega C’s smaller and fewer highly effective sibling Vega additionally skilled two launch failures in recent times. Manufacturing of the heavy-lifting rocket Ariane 5 has been discontinued, whereas its successor Ariane 6 has been delayed and gained’t have a maiden flight till late 2023 on the earliest. And following Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine a 12 months in the past, European nations have cancelled contracts for launches with Russia’s Soyuz rockets.

Rocket scarcity

Solely two Ariane 5 rockets are nonetheless obtainable: one is scheduled to launch ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer in April. One other main ESA mission, the Euclid house telescope, needed to be reassigned from a Soyuz to a SpaceX Falcon 9, and can due to this fact elevate off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in July, as a substitute of ESA’s Kourou spaceport in French Guyana. “It’s not very easy to maneuver a spacecraft from one launcher to a different,” says Euclid mission supervisor Giuseppe Racca at ESA in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, “however we managed.”

The Vega and Vega C programmes are managed by ESA and Arianespace. Each rockets are constructed by a European consortium led by Avio of Colleferro, outdoors Rome.

The primary stage of the Vega C — a strong booster of the identical design as these utilized by Ariane’s larger launchers — carried out flawlessly after liftoff on 20 December. The engine on the second stage, a Zefiro 40 liquid gas motor designed and assembled by Avio, then ignited as deliberate, mentioned Pierre-Yves Tissier, chief technical officer of Arianespace and co-chair of the investigation into the failed launch.

However 144 seconds into the flight, strain within the hoses that feed the nozzle began to drop. The investigation panel traced the issue to a element manufactured from a carbon-carbon composite, which was manufactured by Ukrainian firm Yuzhnoye earlier than the struggle started.

The element, which feeds gas into the nozzle, has to resist excessive mechanical stresses and thermal gradients, however its density was not sufficiently homogenous, which led to its rupture. The investigation didn’t discover any weak point within the design of the Zefiro 40 motor.

Aschbacher mentioned that ESA will reallocate €30 million to exchange the faulty half and carry out a recent sequence of assessments of the Zefiro 40 on the bottom. ESA and Arianespace goal to renew Vega launches by September 2023 and Vega C by the tip of the 12 months. It is not going to be a second too quickly: Vega and Vega C now have a backlog of 15 flights, which embrace ESA’s Earth-mapping probe Sentinel 2C and EarthCare, a local weather and climate satellite tv for pc that ESA will function along with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Company.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments