Avio spokesperson Francesco Delorenzo told SpaceNews that Vega was cleared for the upcoming Vega VV18 mission during a March 3 flight readiness review.
An independent investigation of a Vega launch failure in November confirmed that misconnected cables in the rocket’s upper stage doomed the mission and made recommendations to allow a return to flight in early 2021.
The European Space Agency has signed a €167 million ($200 million) contract with Thales Alenia Space Italy and Avio to deliver Space Rider — Europe's first robotic orbital spaceplane — in time for a mid-to-late 2023 launch atop an expendable rocket.
The head of Italian rocket manufacturer Avio assured customers Nov. 19 that the company was working hard to return Vega to service following the rocket’s second failure in its last three launches.
Since 60% of Avio’s revenue comes from manufacturing, the French government’s March 16 decision to suspend launches from the Guiana Space Center shouldn’t impact revenues as long as Europe’s South American spaceport reopens within two to three months, Ranzo said.
The European Space Agency is preparing to allocate a few million euros to ensure Vega doesn’t have any repeats of its July launch failure, an agency official said Nov. 20.
Avio CEO Giulio Ranzo said during a Nov. 7 earnings call, said Vega is on track for a return to flight by March, though what payload will launch on the mission is still to be determined.
Investigators think Vega’s failure originated in the forward dome area of the Zefiro-23, the second of three solid-fueled stages the rocket expends to deliver satellites to orbit.
The fifteenth launch of a European Vega rocket ended in failure July 10, resulting in the loss of an imaging satellite for the United Arab Emirates.
Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Avio, the Colleferro, Italy, company that builds the Vega and future Vega C rocket, said the ESA council session included missions for both Avio-built rockets during the transition years to Vega C.
Avio, the company that builds Europe’s light-lift Vega rocket and the future Vega C, reported a double-digit jump in revenue for its first full year as a publicly traded company.
Developers of small launch vehicles, who have promoted their vehicles as providing dedicated access to space for small satellites, say they’re also open to flying rideshare missions as they face competition from larger rockets.