Rocket Lab suffers setback as Electron booster fails in flight
Rocket Lab has made some impressive gains lately as a relatively young space startup focused on launching small satellites to orbit, but the latest outing of its Electron booster hasn’t quite gone to plan. The rocket was lost during a mission to lift seven payloads into orbit, with the team now investigating the cause of the anomaly in hopes of returning to the launchpad soon.
Since emerging back in 2013 as a private startup looking to offer reliable launch services for small payloads with fast turnaround times, Rocket Lab has achieved some significant feats with its Electon rocket.
These include first reaching orbit in January of 2018 after a series of failures, lifting small satellites into orbit for NASA, and carrying out missions for DARPA followed by the US Air Force. It has also started testing out methods to re-use the first stage of its rocket by collecting it in midair with a helicopter, and is exploring other recycling techniques involving parachutes and soft landings in the ocean.
Sunday’s “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen” mission was to be the twelfth successful consecutive journey to orbit for Electron. It was also to be its fastest launch turnaround to date, coming just three weeks after its previous mission on June 13.
Loaded aboard were seven small satellites, including one for Canon Electronics designed to demonstrate new Earth-imaging capabilities with advanced wide-angle and high-res cameras. The others included five small satellites for manufacturer Planet, and a demonstrator CubeSat for British firm In-Space Missions.
The launch itself went off without a hitch, followed by the first-stage burn and stage separation. But around four minutes into the fight an issue occurred that brought about the “safe loss” of the vehicle, along with the payloads onboard. The company is now investigating the cause of the anomaly alongside the Federal Aviation Administration, with a view to returning to action soon.
“We are deeply sorry to our customers Spaceflight Inc., Canon Electronics Inc., Planet, and In-Space Missions for the loss of their payloads,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO. “We know many people poured their hearts and souls into those spacecraft. Today's anomaly is a reminder that space launch can be unforgiving, but we will identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible. The launch team operated with professionalism and expertise to implement systems and procedures that ensured the anomaly was managed safely. I’m proud of the way they have responded to a tough day. We’re working together as a team to comb through the data, learn from today, and prepare for our next mission.”
You can hear more from Beck about the failed launch in the video below.
Source: Rocket Lab