Europe's Vega C rocket launch delayed to December (update)

Europe's new Vega C rocket lifts off for its debut flight from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on July 13, 2022.
Europe's new Vega C rocket lifts off for its debut flight from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on July 13, 2022. (Image credit: ESA/Arianespace)

Update for Nov. 24: The planned Nov. 24 liftoff of a Vega-C rocket has been postponed due to "defective equipment that needs to be replaced on the launcher," Arianespace announced via Twitter (opens in new tab). The launch has now been delayed to December at the earliest; a new target date will be announced when it's available.


Space fans will have some rocket action to digest their turkey by.

The medium-lift Vega C rocket is scheduled to lift off from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on Thursday (Nov. 24) at 9:57 p.m. EST (10:47 p.m. local time and 0257 GMT on Nov. 25). You can watch the launch live here at Space.com, courtesy of Arianespace, which operates the Vega C, or directly via the France-based company (opens in new tab).

The 115-foot-tall (35 meters) Vega C rocket will carry to sun-synchronous orbit the satellites Pléiades Neo 5 and Pléiades Neo 6, which together weigh 4,359 pounds (1,977 kilograms).

Related: The history of rockets

The two spacecraft will complete the Pléiades Neo Earth-imaging constellation, which is owned and operated by European aerospace giant Airbus. 

"The constellation is made of four identical satellites, built using the latest Airbus innovations and technological developments, and allows to image any point of the globe, several times per day, at 30-centimeter [12 inches] resolution," Arianespace wrote in a description of Thursday's Vega C mission (opens in new tab).

"Highly agile and reactive, they can be tasked up to 15 minutes before acquisition and send the images back to Earth within the following hour," Arianespace added. "Smaller, lighter, more agile, accurate and reactive than the competition, they are the first of their class whose capacity will be fully commercially available."

Vega C was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is now operated by Arianespace. The new rocket is a more powerful variant of the original Vega, which made its debut in 2012.

Vega C's inaugural flight occurred this past July, when the rocket successfully launched a 650-pound (295 kg) Italian spacecraft and six tiny tagalong cubesats to orbit.

Arianespace currently has three operational rockets in its stable: the two Vegas and Ariane 5, a powerful heavy lifter. The company flew Russian-built Soyuz rockets for years as well but stopped doing so after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Arianespace will also fly the Ariane 6, the successor to the Ariane 5. ESA is still developing the new heavy lifter, which is expected to launch for the first time in late 2023.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.