The small satellite launcher Rocket Lab successfully returned to flight late Sunday night, less than two months after the company’s previous mission failed to reach orbit during launch. The company’s main rocket, Electron, took off from the Rocket Lab launch site in New Zealand, deploying a small Earth observation satellite in orbit around the Earth.
The launch marks a quick turnaround for Rocket Lab after its failed launch on July 4th. During this mission, the company’s Electron also took off from New Zealand, carrying seven small satellites into space. But just minutes after the flight, the faulty electrical connection caused a chain reaction of events that caused the engine at the top of the rocket to stop early. As a result, Electron failed to reach orbit and fell back to Earth. The vehicle then burns into the planet̵
The failure marks the biggest accident for Rocket Lab so far since the company launched commercial missions in 2018. But by the end of July, Rocket Lab said it had isolated the problem and that the Federal Aviation Administration had given permission for the company to start again.
The mission on Sunday marked the 14th successful launch of Rocket Lab. Electron has built only one small satellite, called Sequoia, for the Capella Space operator, designed to monitor the Earth with synthetic aperture radars. This is the first Capella Space satellite available for customer use. The company plans to launch a constellation of these spacecraft into orbit. As a payload nod, Rocket Lab called the launch “I can’t believe it’s not optical.”