The launch mission of two French and Spanish satellites on Tuesday, November 17, has failed, leading to losses estimated at $373 million.
Arianespace, the company operating the launch rocket, announced the mission’s failure soon after it deviated from its trajectory.
The Vega rocket, named VV17, was carrying French weather research satellite Taranis and Spanish Earth observation satellite SEOSAT-Ingenio.
Arianespace initiated the mission from its launch base in French Guiana, South America. After its failure, the launcher fell in an uninhabited area, the company announced. The French and Spanish satellites were “lost.”
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the failure occurred during the fourth stage of the mission, approximately eight minutes after liftoff.
Tomas Hamann, an aerospace expert, told Morocco World News that, based on Arianespace’s preliminary data, the failure would have occurred at an altitude of approximately 180 kilometers.
The two countries planned VV17 to take SEOSAT-Ingenio to an altitude of 670 kilometers and Taranis to 676 kilometers.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the incident possibly occurred because of human error, rather than faulty design. “Telemetry data analyses are in progress to determine the cause of this failure.”
The only time that a Vega rocket failed, prior to yesterday’s incident, was Vega’s 15th mission, VV15, in July 2019. The launch mission concerned Emirati satellite Falcon Eye 1.
Vega rockets have previously put two Moroccan satellites in orbit. In November 2017, mission VV11 launched Morocco’s Earth observation satellite, Mohammed VI-A.
In November 2018, Vega’s 13th flight, VV13, put the second Moroccan surveillance satellite, Mohammed VI-B, into orbit.
Besides the financial losses of yesterday’s failure, estimated at $373 million, the failed mission could possibly put a dent in the reputation of the France-based Arianespace satellite launch company, especially with growing competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX.