# The Orbital Index

Issue No. 209 | Mar 8, 2023

🚀 🌍 🛰

 ¶Remember… space is still hard. H3 doesn’t make it. After a decade in development, JAXA & Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ medium-lift H3 rocket, an upgraded and lower cost (around $50M vs$90M per launch) version of their H2-A launch vehicle, finally took off (video). Unfortunately, second-stage ignition failed and flight controllers were forced to terminate the mission. The self-destruct sequence took JAXA’s ALOS-3 along with it—a high-resolution optical EO satellite which would have had a ground resolution of 0.8 m. 6 months and no results. Blue Origin is still investigating why its New Shepard NS-23 mission failed (although it did end up being a successful test of their crew capsule abort system 🤷). Rocket 3.3 melted its guts. Astra shared their analysis of the Rocket 3.3 vehicle failure last June—a combustion chamber wall burn-through led to excessive consumption of fuel, which ran out before the rocket’s oxidizer, causing the rocket to fail to exceed 80% of orbital velocity. Vega-C needs a new nozzle. Vega-C failed on its second flight in December, leading to the demise of two Pléiades Neo satellites onboard. ESA recently announced the results of its investigation into the failure, citing an eroded engine nozzle on the Zefiro-40 solid-fueled second stage—its carbon-carbon throat insert material did not perform to specifications and acceptance criteria failed to assess the material’s strength. The insert supplier, a Ukrainian company, must now be replaced with a new supplier, meaning Vega-C won’t return to flight until late this year (which feels slightly optimistic). The Ukrainian Space Agency has contested these findings. Regardless, this leaves Europe completely devoid of launch capabilities after Ariane 5 launches JUICE next month in the venerable rocket's last mission—Ariane 6 won’t fly until about the same time as Vega-C, Virgin Galactic failed their first UK flight, and the various EU-based new launch startups are still yet to fly.
 A solid rocket’s nozzle throat insert is tasked with compressing and containing the combustion gasses and is the single highest stress component in this type of engine.