An anomaly during an Arianespace Vega rocket launch earlier this morning resulted in the loss of the Falcon Eye 1 spy satellite.
The Vega rocket carrying the spy satellite for the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces was launched from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana at 01:53 this morning. Approximately two minutes after liftoff, the Vega rocket suffered an anomaly following the separation of the first stage and ignition of the Zefiro 23 second stage.
It is as yet unclear what caused the anomaly. However, a July 11 Arianespace press release revealed that analysis of flight data is already underway with an “independent inquiry commission” to follow in the coming hours.
Arianespace has confirmed that the 1,500-kilogram Emirati Falcon Eye 1 high-resolution optical reconnaissance was lost. The satellite was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space and Thales Alenia Space for the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. The satellite was reportedly equipped with the HiRi (High-Resolution Imager) imaging system which is capable of a ground resolution of 70 centimetres across a 20-kilometre swath.
The Falcon Eye 1 spy satellite is one of a pair. The second was expected to launch aboard another Vega rocket before the end of the year. However, with this morning’s failure, it is unclear how the second mission will be affected.
This morning’s launch was the first failure of a Vega rocket following 14 successful missions since its maiden launch in February 2012. The rocket is manufactured by Italian aerospace firm Avio and operated exclusively by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre.