The United Arab Emirates lost a spy satellite after a failed rocket launch from the South American country of French Guiana late Wednesday. It’s still unclear what caused the failure, which became evident about two minutes after liftoff.
First reported by Spaceflight Now, the 98-foot-tall European Vega rocket was carrying a satellite built by Airbus called the FalconEye1 for the UAE military. Arianespace, the company operating the rocket launch, reports that a “major anomaly” happened shortly after the second stage ignition and that it fell into the Atlantic Ocean. The flight was supposed to last 57 minutes from liftoff to separation.
Luce Fabreguettes, Arianespace executive VP of missions, ops, and purchasing, apologized at a news conference after the failure of the launch, dubbed VV15. Thales Alenia Space was also a contractor on the project.
“As you have seen, about two minutes after liftoff, around the Z23 ignition, a major anomaly occurred resulting in the loss of the mission,” Fabreguettes said. “On behalf of Arianespace I wish to express my deepest apologies to our customers for the loss of their payload and telling them how sorry I am.”
Video of the launch is available on YouTube, though the failure can’t be seen from any of the available images.
As Spaceflight Now notes, the Vega launcher has had 14 successful launches since it started in February of 2012. The Guiana Space Center has been conducting rocket launches from South America for over 50 years.
From Spaceflight Now:
The top speed achieved by the rocket, according to telemetry data included in Arianespace’s webcast, was approximately 2.17 kilometers per second, or 4,850 mph at Plus+2 minutes, 13 seconds. The telemetry plot then showed the Vega rocket’s velocity decreasing, and the vehicle deviated below its planned ascent trajectory before falling into the Atlantic Ocean north of the Guiana Space Center.
“Data analyses are in progress to clarify the reasons for this failure,” Arianespace said in a statement posted to its website. “An independent inquiry commission will be set up in the coming hours.”