A Rocket Lab Electron amplifier carrying two commercial satellites failed to reach orbit on Saturday (May 15th) after suffering an anomaly just minutes after takeoff.
The launch failed less than three minutes after the launch of Rocket Lab’s launch complex 1 on the Mahiya Peninsula in New Zealand and shortly after the separation of the two stages of Electron. Two Earth observation satellites for BlackSky, their flight organized by Spaceflight, were lost.
“During today’s launch, there was a problem that led to the loss of the mission. We deeply regret our customers launching BlackSky and Spaceflight,”
Connected: Rocket Lab and its booster Electron (photos)
A camera mounted on the upper stage of the Electron showed a separation of the stage into 2 minutes and 35 seconds of flight, followed by a brief ignition and a sharp sideways movement before turning off. Rocket Lab confirmed a loss of telemetry from the rocket four minutes after takeoff.
The failure of the start on Saturday is after a failed start in July 2020, which the company traced to a single damaged electrical connection. Rocket Lab’s first Electron launch in 2017 failed to reach orbit due to a telemetry problem. In addition to these flights, Rocket Lab has 18 successful launches.
Rocket Lab launched the 58-foot (18-meter) Booster Electron at 7:11 a.m. EDT (1111 GMT) after a little over an hour of delay due to strong upper-level winds. The mission was the company’s 20th flight and was nicknamed “Running Out Of Toes” to mark a milestone.
Electron’s first stage was also expected to parachute back to Earth after separating from the upper stage and launching a parachute into the Pacific Ocean as part of the Rocket Lab’s reuse program. A previous Electron struck a similar blow in November 2020.
The company is testing technology to direct Electron boosters back to Earth to catch them in the air by capturing their parachutes with a helicopter. The goal: reuse boosters and their engines to reduce the cost of space travel.
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