Rocket Lab’s Electron missile encountered an unexpected mid-flight engine shutdown on Saturday and lost the mission’s payload from two satellites, the company said. The New Zealand launch was Electron’s 20th and marked the company’s second failed mission in less than a year.
Electron, a rocket about six stories high with two booster stages, was launched Saturday at 7:11 a.m. ET from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, targeting a pair of Earth observation satellites for BlackSky in orbit. to send the earth. . After two and a half minutes of flying, the missile’s second stage booster successfully separated from the first stage and ignited for a few seconds before turning off, indicating a problem as seen in the live stream of the rocket. company. Mission Control lost telemetry from the booster shortly after.
“There was a problem during today’s launch resulting in the loss of the mission,” Rocket Lab tweeted after the failure. “We are very sorry for our launch customers BlackSky and Spaceflight. The problem arose shortly after the ignition of stage two. More information will be provided as it becomes available. “
A secondary goal for the mission, dubbed “Running Out Of Toes,” was to test a number of hardware upgrades intended to improve Electron’s reusability, including a new heat shield for the return of the booster. The rocket’s first stage booster successfully splashed under parachutes into the ocean, as planned, after elevating the second stage into space, Rocket Lab said in a statement.
The company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the cause of Saturday’s problem and correct it for future missions, the statement said. “With multiple launch vehicles currently in production, Rocket Lab is prepared for a rapid return to flight once the investigation is complete and the required corrective action has been taken,” he said. No injuries or public damage were reported.
“We will learn from this, and we will get back on track,” said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab in the statement. BlackSky, the launching customer, retweeted Rocket Lab’s statement: “This is what we received from Rocket Lab. We will continue to provide updates as we learn more. “
Electron’s last outage occurred in July 2020, transporting seven satellites and eventually lost after the second stage was shut down prematurely. Rocket Lab returned to flight two months later after linking the failure to a faulty electrical connection, then continued on six successful Electron missions. The company has launched a total of 17 successful missions.