The Best Laid Plans: Europe’s Ambitious Launch Year Goes Awry Due to International Tensions, Schedule Delays

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December 2021 on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Christmas Day 2021, an European Ariane 5 rocket roared off its launch pad in French Guiana with the most expensive payload the booster had ever carried, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope. The launcher performed perfectly, sending the most powerful space telescope on a journey to its final destination 1.5 million km (900 million miles) from Earth. The launch was so accurate that Webb should have sufficient propellant to perform science operations for much longer than its planned 10-year lifetime.

There was a collective sigh of relief among the European, American and Canadian scientists and engineers involved in the long-delayed program. It was a superb Christmas gift to a world suffering through the second year of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

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How to Watch the First Vega-C Launch on July 13

Vega C launch vehicle (Credit: ESA)

ESA Mission Update

ESA’s new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight. You can follow live on ESA Web TV. Flight VV21 will lift off as soon as 13 July at 13:13 CEST, pending suitable conditions for launch.

    Broadcast begins 12:45 CEST/11:45 BST [6:45 a.m. EDT/10:45 UTC] on ESA Web TV

    13:13 CEST/12:13 BST [7:13 a.m. EDT/11:13 UTC] – liftoff

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Vega-C Set for Inaugural Launch Next Week

Vega rocket in flight (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight, with its four stages stacked stages and ready to receive the payload fairing before final checks and launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. 

Flight VV21 will lift off as soon as 13 July, pending suitable conditions for launch.

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Vega-C Set for Inaugural Launch in July

Artist’s impression of Vega-C launcher in flight. (Credit: ESA-Jacky Huart)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight, with its four fully-stacked stages now ready for payload integration, final checks and launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. 

Flight VV21 will lift off as soon as 7 July, pending suitable conditions for launch.

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Vega-C: Launcher Integration Begins for Inaugural Flight VV21

The Vega-C Interstage 1/2 has now been transferred to and integrated at the Vega Launch Zone (Zone de Lancement Vega) ZLV at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 22 April 2022. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique video du CSG/P Baudon)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Launcher integration for the inaugural flight of Vega-C began with the P120C solid-fuel first stage being delivered to the Vega Launch Zone (Zone de Lancement Vega, or ZLV) at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 15 April 2022. P120C will also fly on Ariane 6, with two or four units serving as boosters depending on mission requirements.

The interstage segment to join the P120C first stage with the Z40 second stage followed on the 22nd.

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Arianespace Signs Unprecedented Contract with Amazon for 18 Ariane 6 Launches to Deploy Project Kuiper Constellation

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced an unprecedented launch service contract during the International Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, USA, on April 5. Under the terms of the contract, Arianespace will perform 18 Ariane 6 launches for Amazon’s Project Kuiper over a period of three years from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Among the 18 launches planned for the deployment of the Project Kuiper, 16 will be carried out with an advanced version of the Ariane 64.

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ESA-developed P120C Solid Rocket Motor Enters Production

The P120C full-scale model solid rocket motor for Ariane 6 and Vega-C, filled with 142 tonnes of inert propellant, is prepared for further integration with other structures. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s Ariane 6 and Vega-C will soon join the family of launch vehicles operating from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to guarantee more opportunities for Europe to reach space. The P120C motor, which will power both Ariane 6 and Vega-C, will soon come into operations with the Vega-C inaugural flight.

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