Rocket Lab makes successful return to the launchpad after July failure
For a relatively young space startup, Rocket Lab has made some impressive strides since first reaching orbit in January of 2018, delivering satellites to orbit for NASA, DARPA, the US Air Force and a number of others. A booster failure in early July threatened to derail this momentum, but the company now appears to have taken the setback in its stride with a successful return to the launchpad today.
Rocket Lab’s Electron booster was set to deliver seven small satellites to orbit for July 4’s “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen” mission, and managed to lift off without a hitch. But the rocket was brought undone by an unexpected issue around four minutes into the flight, causing the “safe loss” of the vehicle and all satellites onboard.
An investigation carried out in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in which the team reviewed more than 25,000 channels of data, revealed this to be the result of a faulty connection that caused the whole electrical system to shut down during flight. Rocket Lab swiftly undertook corrective measures and received approval from the FAA to get back to business.
If the team carried any nerves into today’s launch of the 100-kg (220-lb) Sequoia satellite for information services firm Capella Space, they were soon put to rest. In its 14th launch, the Electron booster successfully cleared the pad, performed a stage separation and deployed the payload to orbit in what was deemed the perfect mission.
This swift and smooth return to action is a noteworthy achievement for the young space company, which focuses on sending small satellites to orbit with high frequency. But its ambitions don’t end there, with its engineers actively exploring methods of recycling rocket parts à la SpaceX, which includes things like catching the first stage of its Electron launch vehicle with a helicopter as it falls back to Earth.
A video of today’s "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical" launch can be seen below.
Source: Rocket Lab