Rocket Lab finds flaw in test flight

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Sa­man­tha Ma­sunaga sa­man­tha.ma­sunaga@la­times.com

Rocket Lab’s Elec­tron rocket did not reach or­bit in its first test launch in May be­cause range safety of­fi­cials ter­mi­nated the flight due to a prob­lem with the ground equip­ment used to track the launch, the com­pany said Sun­day night.

The Hunt­ing­ton Beach com­pany said data showed the Elec­tron was on track to reach or­bit prior to the flight ter­mi­na­tion. The rocket reached space dur­ing the test flight, but did not make it to or­bit as planned.

Rocket Lab said that four min­utes af­ter liftoff the ground equip­ment tem­po­rar­ily lost con­tact with the rocket, and based on stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures the of­fi­cials ter­mi­nated the launch. The Elec­tron has an on­board ter­mi­na­tion sys­tem that ef­fec­tively shuts down the rocket’s en­gines.

The com­pany said a two-month-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the rocket’s flight was ter­mi­nated be­cause of a “data loss time out” caused by a mis­con­fig­u­ra­tion of teleme­try equip­ment. That equip­ment was owned and op­er­ated by a third-party con­trac­tor that was sup­port­ing the launch, which took place at Rocket Lab’s pri­vate launch com­plex on New Zealand’s Mahia Penin­sula.

Rocket Lab Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Peter Beck said it was “dis­ap­point­ing” to see the flight ter­mi­nated “in essence due to an in­cor­rect tick box.”

“Rocket Lab’s teleme­try sys­tems pro­vided data ver­i­fy­ing Elec­tron’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and pro­vid­ing us with high con­fi­dence ahead of our sec­ond test flight,” he said in a state­ment.

The com­pany said that the fix for the is­sue was “sim­ple” and that “cor­rec­tive pro­ce­dures” were put into place to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture.

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