Arianespace probes failure of European satellite launch

James Marshall
November 18, 2020

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.

"Eight minutes after the liftoff, 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", Israël said, as reported by Spaceflight Now.

The second passenger, Taranis (200 kg), was an observatory for Transient Light Phenomena (TLE) and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes located in the upper atmosphere (up to 100 km above sea level).

The last failure was July 2019 when a rocket was carrying a military spy satellite for the United Arab Emirates.

It is unclear what caused the failure, but Arianespace said they were working to determine what went wrong.

Because these two cables were installed upside down, the commands meant for one actuator were transmitted to the other, resulting in the tumbling action. Less than 24 hours later, the launch provider published a statement identifying a problem with the integration of the fourth-stage AVUM nozzle activation system.

This appears to be a human error and not related to the vehicle's performance.

The mission would have launched Spain's first Earth observation satellite for the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Vega rocket was carrying Spain's first Earth observation satellite, called SEOSAT-Ingenio, and TARANIS, a French satellite created to observe events in the upper atmosphere. Arianespace attributed that incident to a structural problem with Vega's second stage, which has since been resolved.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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