A Rocket Lab Electron repeater failed to reach orbit while attempting to launch seven small satellites for three different customers on Saturday (July 4).
The double stage Electron repeater got up from the pad on Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch site at 5:19 pm EST (919 GMT; 9:19 pm New Zealand local time), carrying seven Earth imaging satellites up high, including five payloads for the company. Planet satellite imaging, as well as a satellite for Canon Electronics and one for space missions in the UK. But a problem with the rocket’s second stage engine burn led to the loss of all seven payloads.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologized for the failure on Twitter. “I am incredibly sorry that we were unable to deliver our customers’ satellites today,” he wrote on Twitter. “Rest assured that we will find the problem, correct it and return to the block soon.”
Video: Watch the Rocket Lab launch just before it failed to reach orbit
The launch seemed to proceed as planned for the first crucial minutes of the flight. So, about six minutes after launch, the rocket’s live video feed crashed. At that point, live broadcast of the company showed that the rocket started to lose speed and altitude. It was then that Rocket Lab stopped the live video feed.
The company announced shortly after on Twitter that there was a problem with the rocket and that the payloads had been lost.
Today a problem occurred during the launch of Rocket Lab which caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry for the customers on board Electron. The problem occurred late during the flight during the 2nd stage burn. Further information will be provided as soon as available. July 4, 2020
The Rocket Lab was originally scheduled for the launch of this Electron on Friday (July 3), but delayed the flight on Sunday (July 5) due to bad weather. But a new meteorological perspective has prompted Rocket Lab to move the launch one day first – a rarity in the spaceflight industry. (Typically launch dates move further, rather than forward.)
The mission, the 13th flight to Rocket Lab, was called “Photo or it did not happen“Like a hat tip to the seven imaging satellites of Earth aboard the rocket. Today’s flight marked the second launch for the California-based rocket maker in just three weeks. It was the fastest delivery time of the company between missions to date.
The main payload on board was Canon Electronics’ CE-SAT-IB, a small satellite loaded with high-resolution, wide-angle cameras for taking photos of the Earth. Within the electron’s nose cone there were also five Earth SuperDove imaging satellites from the Planet company. The last payload was a small space mission called Faraday-1, which contained a suite of tools from a group of organizations that needed a lift.
“The In-Space team is absolutely gutted by this news” In-Space tweeted shortly after the accident was announced. “Two years of hard work by an incredibly busy team of ingenious engineers in smoke. It was indeed a very nice little spacecraft.”
Even Planet’s CEO, Will Marshall announced the loss of its satellites on Twitter, while noting that the company plans to launch multiple satellites this summer on two separate launches. “Even if it is never the result we hope for, the risk of failure in launching is a Planet that is always ready” the company said in a statement. These launches are expected to travel in orbit over a European Vega rocket and a Falcon 9.
Since its inception, Rocket Lab has launched a total of 53 spacecraft in 12 separate missions and most of these flights have been successful. Only the company’s very first flight, launched in 2017, failed to reach orbit due to a telemetry problem, not a rocket problem. All other flights were successful.
The company will need to determine what caused the anomaly, as it has big plans for the future, including an impending mission to the moon. The company is scheduled for throws a cubesat on the moon in 2021 as part of a NASA contract worth $ 9.95 million. That flight is scheduled to be launched from the U.S.-based launch site at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
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