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The European Space Agency (ESA) said Thursday that an investigation had been launched after the failure of the European missile launch, Vega, which led to the crash of a military surveillance satellite that would have been placed in orbit for the UAE.

The Italian-made rocket was launched from a space center in French Guiana at 10:53 am local time on Wednesday (0153 GMT on Thursday) carrying the Falcon I-1 satellite, reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Footage of the launch showed on the Internet that after about two minutes, observers began to report indications of an error shortly after the start of the second phase. Despite attempts to reset the missile's launch settings from the ground, authorities later confirmed that the missile had suffered a "serious technical failure" and apologized to the UAE for losing its cargo in reference to the satellite.

It was the first failed operation to launch a Vega rocket, on which the European Space Agency (ESA) relies on missions to place satellites in orbits around the Earth. The missile was used in 14 previous missions.

The launch was postponed twice due to poor weather conditions. Ariane Space said that any future Vega launches had been suspended until the investigation was completed, but preparations were under way for the next launch of the larger Ariane 5 rocket.

The Falcon I-1 is the first of two surveillance satellites to be launched for the UAE armed forces this year under a cooperation agreement between the UAE and France. UAE officials could not be reached for comment.

By REUTERS (Reuters)

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