Rocket failure after fault
Rocket Lab says it has found the cause of its failed mission on July 5
— a single electrical connection.
The rocket launched successfully from the Ma¯ hia Peninsula but failed to reach orbit. It started sliding backwards about three minutes into its second-stage burn and the engine performed a safe shutdown. The rocket burned up on re-entering the atmosphere.
The mission, called “Pics or it Didn’t Happen”, was carrying a 67kg Earthimaging satellite for Canon Electronics to photograph objects on the ground as small as 90cm wide.
Beck said customers’ insurance would cover the cost of the failed mission’s cargo.
The failure came amid a Rocket Lab attempt to demonstrate its “warpspeed” capability to carry out a launch every three weeks.
But early in the investigation process, chief executive Peter Beck told the Herald the problem had likely been “baked-in” months ago during the manufacturing process.
Yesterday Rocket Lab confirmed its investigation had narrowed down the issue to a single faulty electrical connection.
“The issue occurred under incredibly specific and unique circumstances, causing the connection to fail in a way that we wouldn’t detect with standard testing. Our team has now reliably replicated the issue in test and identified that it can be mitigated through additional testing and procedures,” Beck said.
Since its inception, Rocket Lab has put 53 spacecraft into low-Earth orbit on 12 separate missions.
With corrective measures under way, the Kiwi-American company says it has received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resume launches. The next Electron launch has been scheduled for this month from Launch Complex 1 in Ma¯ hia.
The rocket launched successfully but started sliding backwards about three minutes into its second-stage burn (inset).