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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ESA Advances Vega Rocket Evolution Beyond 2025

The 3D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the methane-fuelled M10 rocket engine passed its first series of hot firing tests at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in the USA during February 2020. The M10 engine will power the upper stage of future Vega evolutions from 2025. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

FRASCATI, Italy (ESA PR) — ESA will further increase the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of Europe’s Vega launch system beyond 2025 through a contract signed with Avio in Italy.

Vega operates from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to launch light satellites to one or multiple orbits in a single launch. This contract takes Vega a step further and marks the start of a new phase in preparation of a new Vega launch vehicle called Vega-E, which will make extensive use of Vega-C building blocks.

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3D-printed Thrust Chamber Passes First Tests for Vega Evolutions

he 3D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the methane-fuelled M10 rocket engine passed its first series of hot firing tests at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in the USA during February 2020. The M10 engine will power the upper stage of future Vega evolutions from 2025. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (ESA PR) — The 3D-printed thrust chamber assembly of the methane-fuelled M10 rocket engine has passed its first series of hot firing tests. The M10 engine will power the upper stage of future Vega evolutions from 2025.

“These test results are encouraging, confirming that our propulsion teams are right on track along the development path identified for such novel technology for Vega evolutions,” commented Giorgio Tumino, managing ESA’s Vega and Space Rider development programmes.

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