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Failure to launch: Rocket Lab launch mission fails to reach orbit

Stephen Kuper

Given the myriad successes enjoyed by the space industry, particularly launch companies, in recent years it is easy to forget that orbital launch is incredibly difficult, as Rocket Lab discovered recently.

Failure to launch: Rocket Lab launch mission fails to reach orbit
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Following a successful lift-off, first stage burn, and stage separation, Rocket Lab experienced an anomaly during its 13th Electron mission, ‘Pics Or It Didn’t Happen’.

The issue occurred approximately four minutes into the flight on 4 July 2020 and resulted in the safe loss of the vehicle. As a result, the payloads onboard Electron were not deployed to orbit.

Electron remained within the predicted launch corridors and caused no harm to personnel or the launch site. Rocket Lab is working closely with the FAA to investigate the anomaly and identify its root cause to correct the issue to move forward.

Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and chief executive, reassured customers, saying, “We are deeply sorry to our customers Spaceflight Inc., Canon Electronics Inc., Planet, and In-Space Missions for the loss of their payloads. We know many people poured their hearts and souls into those spacecraft. Today's anomaly is a reminder that space launch can be unforgiving, but we will identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible.”

The anomaly occurred after 11 consecutive successful orbital launches of the Electron launch vehicle. Rocket Lab currently has more than eight Electron vehicles in production, ready for a rapid return to flight as soon as investigations are complete and any required corrective actions are in place.

"The launch team operated with professionalism and expertise to implement systems and procedures that ensured the anomaly was managed safely. I’m proud of the way they have responded to a tough day. We’re working together as a team to comb through the data, learn from today, and prepare for our next mission," Beck added.

Rocket Lab is at the forefront of an exciting new era of small satellite technology . We all rely on satellites. They connect us, keep us safe, help us understand our planet and manage our impact on it, and enable us to innovate and explore.

Rocket Lab’s core business is to enable companies, students, scientists, researchers, governments and entrepreneurs alike to get their ideas to orbit, right now.

A solar system of possibilities has opened up for people who thought space was out of reach, until now.

The company’s satellites are keeping countries connected and borders protected, they're monitoring weather and managing waste, they're providing insights on climate change, and helping us manage resources for future generations.

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