Rocket Lab finds flaw in test flight
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.