Space

Human error is the cause of Vega’s launch failure

Summary

On Tuesday, Arianespace officials said that the cause of the launcher tumbling some few minutes after lift-off is inverted cables on the upper stage control system of the Vega rocket on Monday night. The failure led to the loss of […]

On Tuesday, Arianespace officials said that the cause of the launcher tumbling some few minutes after lift-off is inverted cables on the upper stage control system of the Vega rocket on Monday night. The failure led to the loss of the French research probe and Spanish Earth observation satellite. 

Arianespace’s chief technical officer, Roland Lagier, said that after a thorough review of the engineers’ telemetry data, they found that the launch failure was due to human error. The cabling problem made the engine nozzle move in the opposite direction from the rocket’s management system. As a result, the rocket lost control and tumble eight minutes after the launch. According to Roland, this was not a design problem but a human error. 

The 30-meter Vega rocket took off at 0152 GMT Tuesday (8:52 p.m. EST Monday) from the Guiana Center which is situated in South America with French Taranis research satellite as well as Spanish Earth Observation satellite. The French satellite was designed to conduct a study of electrical discharges from the thunderstorms. The Vega rocket’s lower three solid-fuelled stages were functioning properly, making the launcher move at a speed of 7.6 km/s (17,000 mph), the velocity required to get into the Earth orbit. 

Arianespace’s CEO, Israel Stephane, said that the European Space Agency and Arianespace would form an independent commission to look into the cause of the launch failure. The launch failure on Monday night was the second launch to fail in three Vega rocket programs.  Since 2012, Vega Launchers have carried out 14 continuous successful missions, before July 2019’s Vega failure with the United Arab Emirates’ Falcon Eye 1 Military spy satellite. According to the investigators, Falcon Eye 1 accident was caused by solid-fuelled second stage’s thermal structural failure, resulting in the in-flight breakup. 

After the failure, the Vega rocket was serviced, and on September 2, it had a successful launch that carried 53 satellites to orbit for various international clients. The Vega rocket has a capacity to place up to 1.5 metric tons of payload into a 700-kilometer-high polar orbit. 

Israel said the last year’s Vega failure and the Monday night mission’s failure are not in any way related. He added that the 2019 Vega’s failure was attributed to a design problem, which was rectified, leading to a successful flight mission in September. Israel said that they are trying to investigate why the Monday night mistake was not rectified. He added that once the investigations are complete, the ESA and Arianespace officials will hold a press conference. 

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