Upper-level winds force a seven-week delay for the Vega rocket

Enlarge / The VV16 payload is trucked to the Vega Launch Zone in French Guiana.ESA/CNES/Arianespace

The European rocket firm Arianespace has been trying to launch a Vega rocket carrying dozens of small satellites for the better part of a year.

First, the launch was delayed from mid-2019 after the Vega rocket experienced its first failure in 15 flights. (That happened in July 2019.) Early this year, after the rocket's failure was investigated and addressed, Arianespace set a date for Vega's return-to-flight mission on March 23. But then the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading around the world, and the European spaceport in French Guiana was ultimately closed for about three months.

Finally, the launch date was reset for June 18. The four-stage rocket and its payload of 53 separate satellites—ranging from 1kg CubeSats up to 500kg mini-satellites—was readied. All appeared go for launch with this "VV16" mission nearly two weeks ago—then the forecast turned unfavorable.

The Vega rocket has a fairly narrow launch corridor for polar missions, and winds in the upper atmosphere along this path were unfavorable on June 18. The winds continued to be obstinate for rescheduled launch dates this past weekend (June 27 and June 28).

On Wednesday, Arianespace seemed to throw up its hands in frustration. "With no improvement in the weather situation expected during the short term, Arianespace has decided to postpone Flight VV16 until August 17, 2020, when the forecast is expected to be more favorable based on modeling of the winds," the launch company said in a news release. "We understand the impatience of our 21 customers, and we share it."

A seven-week delay due to weather seems a little excessive, so we decided to dig a little further.

Several factors

First of all, the forecast for the next week or 10 days does look cruddy when it comes to upper-level winds. However it's not like this pattern will necessarily persist for the next seven weeks. Of Vega's 15 launches, four have flown during the months of June, July, and August—so the rocket can definitely launch during the summer from South America.

However, the batteries aboard the small rocket (and on some of its satellites) must, at some point, be recharged. This process appears to involve customer representatives flying into French Read More – Source

Related Articles

Back to top button