Vega-C gains new launch contract from ESA for Earth observation satellites

Tuesday, Arianespace announced it signed a new contract for two launches, with an option of a third, from the European Space Agency and the Italian Government. However, no response has been made on the validity of Vega-C’s failure investigation.

ESA helps out Arianespace with more launches

Vega-C, Arianespace’s light launch vehicle, will launch up to a trio of Earth observation satellites for the Italian government. The European Space Agency was allowed to make the selection and went with Europe’s primary source for orbital launches, Arianespace.

Other than Virgin Orbit, which just began launch operations out of the UK, Arianespace is the only European company with operational launchers. The first launch will take place in late 2025 at the earliest, with the program’s first significant milestone set to be hit this month, per a press release.

This contract brings Vega-C’s launch backlog up to 15.

“I would like to thank the Italian government, along with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency ASI, to entrust Arianespace to deploy the state-of-the-art Earth Observation constellation IRIDE with Vega C,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “To support implementation of such constellations projects, pivotal to a better understanding of the Environment changes at a global scale and to improving life on Earth, is at the core of our mission and we are particularly excited to be part of this adventure.”

No response to Ukraine’s dissagrement

The stain of Vega-C’s launch failure in December has not gone away yet. However, Arianespace attempted to make concerns go away with a report from the independent review commission tasked with determining what went wrong. In the report, the commission blames a component from a Ukrainian supplier with a simple change in material needed and already underway.

Ukraine’s State Space Agency released a statement against the commission’s findings and that its engineers that took part in the investigation disagreed with the outcome.

So far, the ESA or Arianespace has not publicly commented on the statement from Ukraine. However, with today’s announcement, it looks like it is moving forward with the plans stated in the commission’s report.

Vega-C is an upgraded version of Arianespace’s Vega light launch vehicle that is made of three solid rocket stages and a fourth liquid-fueled stage. It, alongside the Ariane 6, is meant to attempt to compete with the robust US launch sector. However, with an early failure of what was thought to be a well-developed launch system and Relativity soon to debut a similarly classed rocket at a much lower price, it doesn’t look to be going well for Arianespace or the ESA.

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