Delayed a year by a launch failure, the coronavirus pandemic and a stretch of stiff upper level winds this summer, an Italian-made Vega rocket vaulted into orbit from French Guiana on Wednesday night and deployed 53 small satellites from 13 countries to punctuate a flawless return to flight mission.
A nearly three-month stoppage of on-site work due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus at NASA’s Marshall Space Fight Center in Alabama is expected to push back the launch of the IXPE X-ray astronomy satellite from May 2021 until some time later next year, a senior space agency official said.
After an unusual stretch of excessive high-altitude winds prevented launch from French Guiana of 53 small satellites on a Vega rocket in June — and no sign of a letup in winds in the coming days — Arianespace said Wednesday that the mission will be delayed to Aug. 17 to allow time for teams to recharge launcher and payload batteries.
After months of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Arianespace scrubbed back-to-back Vega launch attempts Saturday and Sunday due to unfavorable high-altitude winds over the European-run Guiana Space Center in South America. The Vega rocket is awaiting launch on a rideshare mission carrying 53 small satellites into orbit for 21 customers in 13 countries.
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.