Ukrainian-made parts cause rocket’s first commercial flight to fail

On Tuesday, December 20, 2022, the first commercial flight of the Vega-C rocket failed, and a Ukrainian-made component caused the failure. On this day, two minutes and twenty-seven seconds after it took off from its base in Kourou, Guyana, the launcher that was supposed to put the two Airbus Pléiade observation satellites into orbit was derailed by a drop in pressure on the second stage. Following standard procedure, an order was then issued to destroy the rocket. Debris fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

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At the request of Arianespace, the company responsible for the flight, and the European Space Agency (ESA), the launch system development agency, an independent investigative committee was formed to find out the cause of the accident as soon as possible.The verdict was delivered on Friday, March 4, and confirmed from gallery Posted the day before: The fault came from a nozzle neck made by the Ukrainian company Youzhnoye. This is the part that connects the center body to the nozzle at the bottom of the rocket.

For the committee, this is “Unexpected thermomechanical corrosion of the carbon/carbon composite material that constituted the nozzle throat insert purchased by Avio in Ukraine. Further investigations concluded that this phenomenon may be due to a lack of homogeneity of the material used for this part. Sincerely. » This part is not subjected to the pressure or temperature of flight.

Europe pays a heavy price in space

The rocket’s program manager, Italian group Avio, prefers the manufacturer over its traditional supplier, ArianeGroup.The committee stated in its report“Avio has implemented an alternative solution for the next nozzle neck (…) Made by Ariane Group “. ESA has set a goal of resuming flights by the end of 2023.

But the accident raised questions about ESA’s liability as a sponsor of the rocket. In a letter sent on February 28, echo, The French space agency CNES has asked its European counterpart to conduct an internal investigation in addition to technical investigations. It requires a deep review of project management.

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Because Europe’s balance sheet in space is very heavy: Arianespace finds itself without a launcher to fulfill its contract, at a time when the Americans, Chinese and even Indians are accelerating launches. By early 2022, the European company has three rockets, two of which are European: the small Vega, for light satellites in low orbit, 300 to 2,000 kilometers from Earth, and its sister star, Ariane-5, for heavy The load will stand still at 36,000 km. It completes a low-orbit offer for a Russian Soyuz launcher.

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