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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77 Launches Conducted During First Half of 2022 as Access to Orbit Expanded

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It was a busy first half of 2022 that saw 77 orbital launches with 74 successes and three failures through the 182nd day of the year on July 1. At a rate of one launch every 2 days 8 hours 44 minutes, the world is on track to exceed the 146 launches conducted in 2021.

A number of significant missions were launched during a period that saw more than 1,000 satellite launched. SpaceX flew the first fully commercial crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing conducted an orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, China prepared to complete assembly of its space station, South Korea launched its first domestically manufactured rocket, and Rocket Lab sent a NASA mission to the moon.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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Following the Success of the Inaugural flight, Arianespace to Start Operations of Vega C with Seven Launchers Already Sold

Vega-C lifts off on its maiden flight on July 13, 2022. (Credit: Arianespace)
  • Following the success of its inaugural flight, Vega C will now begin its operational phase, under the responsibility of Arianespace, with a target of at least four launches per year and a fast-growing backlog that already includes 7 launches and 10 auxiliary payloads.
  • Vega C is an upgrade to the Vega launcher and can better answer institutional and commercial customers’ needs. Thanks to its increased capabilities, Vega C will serve the burgeoning Earth observation market as well as long-term institutional and commercial needs.
  • The first commercial launch of Vega C is scheduled in November 2022. The flight, designated VV22, will deliver Pléiades Neo 5 and 6, a pair of satellites wholly funded, manufactured and operated by Airbus.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Wednesday, July 13 at 10:13 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, the first Vega C, the new European launcher designed and manufactured by AVIO, was successfully launched under the supervision of ESA from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).

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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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Avio Signs “Next-Gen EU” Contracts Funded with 340 Million Euros at Completion for New Green Liquid Propulsion Launchers

ROME (Avio PR) – The first two contracts of Italy’s implementation of the “Next Gen EU” initiatives for Space were awarded to Avio. In the past few months, the Italian Government had decided to invest around 340M€ [USD $346.3 million] to improve the technological capability of the Italian industry for “Access to Space”, entrusting the European Space Agency (ESA) as the Contracting Authority with the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Italian Space Agency and the Ministry of Innovation & Digital Transformation. The goal is to leverage existing capabilities established in Italy since the early 2000s through the Vega, Vega C and Vega E programs to develop next generation propulsion technologies and launch system architectures.

The contracts were signed at the headquarters of the Ministry of Technological Innovation and Digital Transition in Rome, in presence of Minister Vittorio Colao, ESA Launchers’ Director Daniel Neuenschwander and Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo.

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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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Maritime Launch Services Debuts on NEO Stock Exchange, But Will They Have a Rocket to Fly?

Cyclone 4M

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Maritime Launch Services has debuted on the NEO Exchange, become the latest space company to go public on a stock exchange without any revenues (losses, actually) while avoiding the “rigmarole” (Richard Branson’s words, not mine) associated with a traditional initial public offering (IPO).

In addition to a lack of revenues and a crowded launcher market, there’s another question hanging over the company that nobody can answer right now: exactly what are they going to launch from the spaceport they’re building in Nova Scotia? The Cyclone 4M booster they plan to use is built in Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia.

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Suspension of Soyuz Launches Operated by Arianespace & Starsem

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace Press Release

Arianespace is strictly abiding by the sanctions decided by the international community (European Union, United States of America and United Kingdom) following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

As part of the mandate given by the ESA Member States to Arianespace, the operation of the Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport (CSG, French Guiana) and from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) through Starsem are governed by France/Russia inter-governmental agreement and ESA – Roscosmos space agencies agreement. This operation began after the end of the Soviet Union and has been very successful up to now. However, it is now challenged by Roscosmos’ unilateral decision to withdraw from CSG and suspend all Soyuz launches from Europe’s Spaceport. Readied Soyuz launchers and Galileo satellites are in stable configuration and in security.

Regarding ST38 for OneWeb from Baikonur, it has been postponed indefinitely following the conditions posed by Roscosmos to proceed. Arianespace will work with its partners to ensure the well-being of the goods and means currently in Baikonur.

Arianespace is in close contact with its customers and French and European authorities to best assess all the consequences of this situation and develop alternative solutions.

In the meantime, preparation of upcoming Ariane 5 and Vega C campaigns of 2022 are progressing according to plan and schedule.

Taking over from Ariane 5 and Vega, Ariane 6 and Vega C will provide Europe with a sustainable and autonomous access to space. Arianespace is confident in the success of these two launchers, to which it has been strongly committed since ESA’s 2014 Ministerial Conference in Luxembourg, on European institutional and global commercial markets.

Incoming! SpaceX Falcon 9 Stage Heads for Crash on the Moon

A high-definition image of the Mars Australe lava plain on the Moon taken by Japan’s Kaguya lunar orbiter in November 2007. (Credit: JAXA/NHK)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The Moon is set to gain one more crater. A leftover SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage will impact the lunar surface in early March, marking the first time that a human-made debris item unintentionally reaches our natural satellite.

In 2015 the Falcon 9 placed NOAA’s DSCOVR climate observatory around the L1 Lagrange point, one of five such gravitationally-stable points between Earth and the Sun. Having reached L1, around 1.5 million km from Earth, the mission’s upper stage ended up pointed away from Earth into interplanetary space.

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D-Orbit Launches New ION Satellite Carrier Mission

Falcon 9 launches the Transporter-3 rideshare mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The space logistics and orbital transportation company launched its latest satellite carrier on January 13th aboard SpaceX Transporter-3 mission

FINO MORNASCO, Italy, 13-01-2022 (D-Orbit PR) — D-Orbit, the leading company in space logistics and orbital transportation, announced today the launch of the latest mission of its orbital transportation vehicle (OTV), ION Satellite Carrier, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission launched today at 15:25 UTC (10:25 a.m. EST) from the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida. On the same day, 1 hour 24 minutes 30 seconds after liftoff, the ION vehicle was successfully deployed into a 500 km Sun synchronous orbit (SSO).

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Latest Vega Launch Paves Way for Vega-C

Launch of Vega VV20 on 16 November 2021, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying three CERES Earth observation satellites. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Arianespace announced liftoff of Vega’s twentieth flight from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at 9:27 GMT (10:27 CET; 06:27 local time). Vega delivered three CERES payloads for the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Each payload is equipped with high-performance sensors. Flying in formation in low Earth orbit, they will offer all-weather observation, daily revisit frequency, and can collect data enabling the characterisation and location of transmitters.

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Arianespace’s Vega Launcher Successfully Orbits Three CERES Satellites

Launch of Vega VV20 on 16 November 2021, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying three CERES Earth observation satellites. (Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)
  • On November 16, Arianespace successfully carried out its 20th Vega launch (VV20), its 12th launch of the year and the third with the Vega light launcher. It was also the 300th launch by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center.
  • The mission orbited three CERES satellites, developed for the French armed forces with French defense procurement agency DGA as contracting authority and with the assistance of the French space agency CNES.
  • This latest mission by Vega once again shows Arianespace’s ability to support the most innovative satellite-based solutions from institutional customers.

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — On Tuesday, November 16 at 6:27 am local time in Kourou, French Guiana, Arianespace successfully launched three CERES military intelligence satellites from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana (South America).

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