Rocket Lab’s 13th mission ended in failure on Saturday, after the company’s rocket experienced “an anomaly” after launching to space. As a result, Rocket Lab lost its rocket, as well as all the satellites it carried on board.
The company’s Electron rocket successfully took off at 5:19PM ET from Rocket Lab’s primary launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The launch seemed to proceed just fine for the first crucial minutes, but about six minutes into the launch, live video from the rocket stalled. At that point, Rocket Lab’s livestream indicated that the rocket started to lose speed, and the vehicle dropped in altitude.
An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the automobile. We are deeply sorry to the clients on board Electron. The issue occurred late in the flight through the 2nd stage burn. More information will undoubtedly be provided because it becomes available.
Rocket Lab’s CEO Peter Beck apologized for the failure on Twitter. “I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today,” that he tweeted. “Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon.”
An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab's launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron. The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available.— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) July 4, 2020
The mission, named “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen,” carried mostly Earth-imaging small satellites. The primary payload was Canon Electronics’ CE-SAT-IB, designed to demonstrate Earth-imaging technology with high-resolution and wide-angle cameras. The rocket also carried five SuperDove satellites from the business Planet, made to image Earth from above. The last payload was a small satellite called Faraday-1, from In-Space Missions, which hosted multiple instruments from startups as well as other organizations that needed a ride to space.
Since its inception, Rocket Lab has put 53 spacecraft in to low Earth orbit on 12 split up missions, with this particular weekend’s launch the third for Rocket Lab this year. The majority of the company’s flight have been successful. Rocket Lab’s very first flight in 2017, called “It’s a Test,” was the only real flight that didn’t operate according to plan; the rocket successfully launched and managed to get to space, but didn’t reach orbit. All of Rocket Lab’s other missions have been picture perfect ever since then, making today’s flight the initial major failure for the business.