European Vega Rocket Veers Off Course, Causes Mission Failure

The major launch failure led to the loss of satellites for Spain and France.
Fabienne Lang

Arianespace's Vega rocket launch on Monday, Nov. 16 suffered a serious failure just eight minutes after liftoff. 

After launching from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 8:52 PM EST, the first phases of flight looked good. Shortly thereafter, though, something went wrong, reported

Satellites for France and Spain have been lost as the mission was deemed a "failure" by Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël.

A news conference today, November 17, will take place at 2:00 PM CET (8:00 AM EST), per Arianespace's press release, to discuss the details of the failed mission.


What happened during and after the launch? 

"Eight minutes after the liftoff, and immediately after the ignition of the engine of the fourth stage of Vega, the Avum stage, we have observed the degradation of the trajectory," Israël said, as reported by Spaceflight Now"It means that the speed was not nominal anymore," he continued. 

Vega rocket's upper stage, named Avum, swerved off course shortly after liftoff. The rocket then did not carry out its expected contact with Arianespace and ESA's ground stations. 

Engineers are now working hard to figure out exactly what went wrong, and why the Vega rocket and its two payloads, the Spanish and French satellites called SEOSAT-Ingenio and TARANIS, respectively, did not make it to orbit.

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The Vega flight VV17, as it's called, was equipped with the Vega rocket, which is nearly 100 feet (30 meters) tall, with three solid-fueled stages and a fourth liquid-fueled stage. The rocket can carry payloads of up to 3,300 lbs (1,500 kg) to polar orbits over 400 miles (645 km) over Earth. 

The Vega rocket has already been launched 17 times since 2012. This is the second launch failure in the last three flights, per Spaceflight Now.

This week wasn't all doom and gloom for space exploration though. NASA and SpaceX's launch went successfully on Sunday night, which saw the Falcon 9 rocket liftoff at 7:27 PM EST.