Rocket Lab’s 20th Electron mission fails with loss of its payload

Rocket Lab suffered its second rocket launch failure in a year. According to the startup, its 20th Electron mission, ‘Running Out Of Toes,’ suffered an anomaly following a successful lift-off, first stage burn, and stage separation. The issue occurred following second stage ignition during the flight, which led to its failure and the loss of both the vehicle and BlackSky’s Earth observation satellite payloads.

The second stage remained within the predicted launch corridor and caused no harm to the public, Rocket Lab’s launch or recovery crews, or the launch site. However, the mission wasn’t a complete failure – Electron’s first stage safely completed a successful splashdown under a parachute, and Rocket Lab’s recovery team is working to retrieve the stage from the ocean as planned.

Working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Rocket Lab team is still investigating the root cause of the failure to correct the issue for future missions.

We are deeply sorry to our customer BlackSky for the loss of their payloads. We understand the monumental effort that goes into every spacecraft, and we feel their loss and disappointment. Our team is working hard to identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder, and chief executive. “On one of our toughest days, our team operated with professionalism and worked swiftly to ensure the anomaly was managed safely. Our team is resilient, and our top priority remains to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers. We will learn from this, and we’ll be back on the pad again.”

Rocket Lab has flown the Electron booster 20 times so far, with 17 of its missions reaching orbit. As usual, the Rocket Lab has multiple launch vehicles currently in production and might not face a long delay. It took just several weeks for Rocket Lab to resume flight after its July 2020 failure, which investigations later revealed to be the result of a faulty electrical connection.

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