Defective parts in Ukraine may have caused the rocket launch failure

Defective parts in Ukraine may have caused the rocket launch failure

BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency said Friday that an investigation into the failure of a rocket carrying two Earth observation satellites last year indicated that the cause was a faulty part procured from Ukraine.

The Vega C rocket fell into the ocean less than three minutes after liftoff from a spaceport in French Guiana in December. Arianespace, which provided the launch service, said at the time that pressure loss was observed in the rocket’s second stage, “leading to a premature termination of the mission.”

“The reason for the failure was progressive deterioration of the Zefiro 40 nozzle,” the European Space Agency said.

The Zefiro 40 second stage, made by Italian aerospace firm Avio, suffered “an unexpected thermo-mechanical over-corrosion” of a carbon component purchased in Ukraine, it said.

Pierre-Yves Tissier of ArianeSpace said this conclusion was based on tests of identical parts and still needed to be confirmed by further tests.

ESA added that the investigation “did not reveal any weaknesses in the design of Zephyro 40.”

The launch was the third failure in the past eight launches of the Vega and Vega C rockets, embarrassing for the agency and its partners.

“We will overcome this difficult moment,” Arianespace chief Stephen Israel told reporters.

ESA chief Joseph Aschbacher added that measures would now be implemented to “come out of this crisis stronger”.

The purpose of the launch was to carry two Earth observation satellites, Pleiades Neo 5 and 6, built by Airbus into orbit. Satellites can be part of a constellation capable of photographing any point on Earth with a resolution of 30 centimeters (12 inches).

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