The company behind the launch said the European Vega-C rocket disappeared on Tuesday shortly after taking off from French Guiana with two Airbus satellites.
The rocket was attempting to bring two Earth observation satellites built by Airbus into orbit, aiming to join an existing network capable of capturing high-quality images of any point on Earth several times a day.
Had it been successful, it would have been the rocket’s first commercial launch since its inaugural journey on July 13.
“Mission is lost,” said Stephane Israel, head of commercial launch service provider Arianespace from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana.
Ten minutes after takeoff, at 22:47 (0147 GMT), the launcher said its trajectory had deviated from its programmed course and communications were cut off.
An “anomaly” occurred in the second stage of the launcher, which “ended the Vega-C mission,” the company said.
“Data analysis is being done to identify the reasons for this failure,” he added.
Arianespace found no debris fallout after takeoff.
The flight, originally scheduled for November 24, was delayed for a month due to a faulty launch element.
A press conference will be held in Kourou at noon on Wednesday.
The Vega-C is billed as the precursor to the future Ariane 6, which the European Space Agency (ESA) hopes will make it more competitive in Europe’s rapidly expanding satellite market.
Tuesday’s failure is a major setback for ESA, which has 22 member states and is responsible for European launch programs.
Global competition in the market has intensified in recent years as Elon Musk’s SpaceX has taken a giant lead.
Europe’s hopes were pinned on the Ariane 6 rocket, but the postponement of the inaugural flight originally planned for 2020 to the end of 2023 shattered ESA’s expectations.
Europe’s space sector was further weakened by the invasion of Ukraine, which ended its cooperation with Russia.
In response to European Union sanctions on Moscow, Russia suspended launch activities from French Guiana and withdrew its technical personnel.
In the absence of an alternative, ESA had to turn to SpaceX to launch two scientific missions.
Tuesday’s Vega-C launch was the fifth and final launch of the year at Kourou’s spaceport.
© 2022 AFP
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