Arianespace’s Attempt to Orbit 12 Satellites on VV23 Mission Scrubbed

Arianespace’s Vega Rocket Scrubs Penultimate Flight, Delaying Launch of 12 Satellites

Arianespace’s lightweight Vega rocket was forced to scrub its penultimate flight on Friday, delaying the launch of 12 satellites, including the THEOS-2 Earth-observation satellite for Thailand and Taiwan’s Triton weather satellite. The liftoff was scheduled for 10:36 PM local time from the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou, French Guiana but was halted at T-14 seconds.

This launch is only Arianespace’s third mission of 2023, as the retirement of the Ariane 5 and the suspension of Soyuz operations have left Vega as the only operational vehicle in their fleet. The Vega rocket will soon be replaced by the upgraded Vega-C, which has a higher payload capacity and a new first-stage solid rocket motor. However, the Vega-C’s second launch in December 2022 failed to reach orbit, making this mission the first for the original version of Vega since that failure.

The primary payloads for this mission are THEOS-2 and Triton. THEOS-2 is an Earth-observation satellite operated by Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency. It was constructed by Airbus Defence and Space and is expected to operate for at least ten years. Triton, also known as FORMOSAT-7R, is Taiwan’s first weather satellite and will gather data to help forecast typhoons.

In addition to THEOS-2 and Triton, there are ten auxiliary payloads aboard Vega for this mission. These include CubeSats of various configurations, which are small satellites built to the CubeSat standard. The largest CubeSat on this mission is the 12-unit Proba-V Companion CubeSat, which will serve as a technology demonstrator and an Earth science research satellite.

Other CubeSats include ESTCube-2, which will contribute to vegetation research, and PRETTY, a joint project between ESA and several organizations to measure sea and ice levels. ANSER is a constellation of three CubeSats that will be used to monitor water quality and pollution in lakes and reservoirs on the Iberian peninsula. N3SS will demonstrate the detection and identification of sources of radio-frequency jamming, while the CSC-1 and CSC-2 satellites will host technology demonstration payloads. MACSAT will test satellite-based 5G connectivity for IoT devices.

The launch will take place from the Centre Spatial Guyanais in Kourou, French Guiana. Vega is a four-stage launch vehicle, with three solid-propellant stages and a liquid-fueled upper stage called AVUM. The ascent will take about one-and-three-quarter hours, with multiple burns to place the payloads into their desired orbits. Once all the payloads have been deployed, AVUM will perform a final burn to deorbit and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

This launch delay means that only one more launch remains for Vega before it is replaced by Vega-C. Arianespace is also working towards the maiden flight of Ariane 6 in 2024. The failure of Vega-C during its last mission has led to modifications being made before flight operations can resume.

Overall, this mission represents an important step for Arianespace and the Vega rocket as it carries a diverse range of satellites into space. The success of this mission will be crucial for future launches and the development of new launch vehicles.