Arianespace announced early today the failure of Flight VV22 carrying Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 satellites.
The Vega-C launch vehicle lifted off as scheduled on 20 December at 22:47 local time in French Guiana (02:47 CET/01:47 GMT 21 December). The lift-off, the mission and the separation of the first stage (P120C) were nominal. Following the nominal ignition of the second stage’s (Zefiro 40) engine around 144 seconds after lift-off, a decrease in the pressure was observed leading to the premature end of the mission. Under standard procedure, the order of destruction of the launcher was given by CNES, the launch safety authority; no damage to persons or properties occurred.
Arianespace and ESA immediately decided to appoint an independent inquiry commission. This commission is tasked with analysing the reasons for the failure and defining the measures fulfilling all requisite safety and reliability conditions to allow the resumption of Vega-C flights. Composed of independent experts, the commission will work with Avio, Vega-C launch system prime contractor.
The inquiry commission is co-chaired by ESA’s Inspector General and the Arianespace Chief Technical Officer. More information will be shared as soon as the Commission will have progressed in its investigations.