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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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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