Two and a half months after Vega’s successful return to flight, the Vega launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled on November 16 at 22:52 (local time in Kourou, French Guyana) from the Guyana Space Center. The first three stages functioned nominally until the ignition of the AVUM upper stage, eight minutes after departure from the launch pad. At that time, a degraded trajectory was detected, followed by a loss of control of the vehicle and the subsequent loss of the mission.
The launcher fell in a completely uninhabited area close to the drop zone planned for the Zefiro 9 stage.
Initial investigations, conducted overnight with the available data, a problem related to the integration of the fourth-stage AVUM nozzle activation system is the most likely cause of the loss of control of the launcher.
In accordance with their standard protocols, Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) will set up an independent Inquiry Commission jointly chaired by Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Space Transport at ESA, and Stéphane Israël, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer, on November 18.
The Commission will provide detailed evidence to explain why steps were not taken to identify and correct the integration error. The Commission will formulate a road map for the Vega’s return to flight under conditions of complete reliability. Arianespace and ESA will jointly present the findings of this commission.
Arianespace expresses its deepest apologies to the clients and the satellite manufacturers involved in this mission.