The head of Italian rocket-maker Avio said Thursday that preparations are proceeding without interruption for the launch of a Vega rocket later this month in French Guiana, but officials have adjusted work schedules at the company’s Vega manufacturing plant near Rome in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Engineers believe super-hot gas from burning solid propellant impinged on the structure of the second stage on a European Vega launcher during a failed flight in July, causing the vehicle to break apart minutes after liftoff from French Guiana with a reconnaissance satellite for the United Arab Emirates, the CEO of Italian rocket-maker Avio said Monday.
A Vega rocket faltered minutes after liftoff from French Guiana at 9:53 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0153 GMT) and failed to reach orbit with a European-built reconnaissance satellite for the United Arab Emirates. The payload and launcher fell into the Atlantic Ocean, marking the first failure for the solid-fueled Vega launch vehicle.
A Vega rocket fired into orbit Thursday night from French Guiana with Italy’s PRISMA hyperspectral Earth-imaging satellite, commencing a busy period for the Vega launcher program as engineers prepare for the debut of the more powerful Vega-C booster in early 2020 and study a lighter variant to better compete in the growing smallsat launch market.
Giulio Ranzo is the chief executive of Avio, the Italian company responsible for building the Vega rocket. Ranzo recently spoke with Spaceflight Now about the Vega rocket’s increasing launch rate, the debut of the new Vega C booster in 2020, and future plans to evolve the Vega design to compete with commercial microsatellite launchers.