Arianespace inks deal to launch at least two Vega-C rockets

Washington, United States (AFP) — Arianespace said on Tuesday that it has signed a contract to launch two Vega-C rockets, forging ahead three months after the failure of the Italian-made vehicle’s first commercial flight.

The first of the two new launches will occur in the last quarter of 2025 from the Kourou space base in French Guiana, Arianespace said in a statement.

The contract includes an option for a third launch, it added.

Italian aerospace manufacturer Avio makes the Vega and Vega-C rockets for the multinational European Space Agency (ESA), the consortium of European partner states that oversees some operations of Arianespace.

The rockets have had a “totally unacceptable” rate of failure, with three of eight launches of the Vega and Vega-C ending in failure, ESA director of space transportation Daniel Neuenschwander said.

The failures triggered the grounding of the Vega program while a commission of inquiry undertook a probe.

The commission reported last week that the December 20, 2022, failure of the Vega-C launch was due to a flawed carbon composite nozzle subcontracted to a Ukrainian company, Yozhnoye.

The new supplier of the nozzle is Arianegroup, the prime contractor of the Ariane 6 launch system.

The Vega-C launch vehicle will be used for the first deployments of the $1.1 billion Iride Earth observation satellites for coastal surveillance, fire prevention and air quality monitoring. The Iride program is an initiative of the Italian government.

The Vega-C is a newer, more powerful version of the Vega rocket.

The contract is “excellent news,” Stephane Israel, president of Arianespace, told AFP.

The Vega-C “is perfectly suited to serve the Earth observation market because of its higher performance and versatility,” Israel said.