Less than a month after Rocket Lab lost one of its vehicles during a mission, the small satellite launcher received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to restart its electronic missile. The company plans to launch its next missile sometime in August from the company’s main launch site in New Zealand.
On July 4, Rocket Lab launched its 13th space mission from New Zealand with seven small satellites, most of which were designed to image Earth from above. Only a few minutes after the start of the flight, the engine in the upper part of the electron turned off too early, according to the Rocket Lab. As a result, the missile did not reach orbit and fell back into the atmosphere, where it burned and destroyed all satellites on board.
Rocket Lab claims to have repeatedly received data from the missile after the early shutdown, so the company can find out what went wrong. “The good news is ̵
Beck says the electrical problem escaped all of the company’s pre-flight tests. The engineers later found that it took a few minutes for the bad connection to experience problems, which is why the team missed them in the first short tests before the start. According to Beck, the engineers have been able to replicate the problem and are confident that they will be able to use tests to find this problem in the future. “The team understood the problem well,” he said. “We have 600 people in the Rocket Lab, and this is the top priority for everyone.” However, Beck said the company was not sure whether the problem was due to poor manufacture or assembly of the part.
Before the start in July, all Rocket Lab flights were more or less smooth, expected to reach orbit, and successfully deployed all satellites. The only exception was the company’s first flight, technically a test mission that made it into space but didn’t reach orbit.
Beck says the accident did not prompt a Rocket Lab customer to leave the company. In fact, Rocket Lab plans to announce customers for the next launch in the coming weeks. While the company has suffered a financial blow, Beck says the company has enough padding and has planned possible outages. They would also have been lucky that the missile failed the way it did, instead of failing on the launchpad, for example. “In terms of failure, it was pretty good in many ways,” he said.