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European Vega launch fails, capping a horrible 2020 for rockets, too

On Tuesday, French rocket maker Arianespace announced that one of its Vega rockets had failed to deliver two European satellites to orbit and had instead fallen back to Earth in a ‘absolutely uninhabited area.’

According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who meticulously tracks launches and other orbital happenings, the unsuccessful launch is the ninth time an orbital mission has failed to meet its target in 2020, the most failures in a calendar year since 1971.

2020 seemed to be a better year in space than on Earth, given good landmark missions such as NASA’s DM-2, Crew-1 and Osiris-Rex, but the raw data shows that 2020 was not great for launches, either. 

You will conclude that we are seeing more failures because in 2020 there will definitely be more launch attempts, but McDowell says that’s not the case. 

“Mostly it’s a consequence of a lot of first flights of new vehicles,” he wrote on Twitter.


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