The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that the Vega C rocket will not return to flight until the fourth quarter of 2024. The rocket experienced a failure during its second mission in December 2022.
An independent commission, established by ESA, concluded that the failure was related to the second stage Zefiro40 nozzle. However, during a test in late June, the updated Zefiro40 engine suffered significant damages.
A second independent commission was formed to investigate the anomaly, and its findings were released on Monday. The commission determined that the issue was due to the geometry of the carbon-carbon throat insert and the thermo-mechanical properties of the new material used in the nozzle.
According to the commission’s recommendation, ESA and contractor Avio need to further improve the nozzle design of the Zefiro40 motor and conduct two additional firing tests to ensure that the necessary fixes have been implemented.
Prior to the failed test, it was anticipated that Vega C would resume flights by the end of this year. However, the delay caused by the anomaly has pushed the expected return to flight to the fourth quarter of 2024.
It is important to note that the issue with the Vega C rocket does not impact the Vega rocket. As a result, some of the Vega C launches have been reassigned to the Vega rocket.
Meanwhile, Arianespace, in collaboration with ESA, is preparing for the launch of Earth observation satellites for Thailand and Taiwan on a scheduled Vega mission on October 6, 2023.