A launch company based in New Zealand Rocket Lab has lost one of its Electron missiles in a launch error that occurred on Saturday, May 15th. The first part of the launch went normally, but during the second stage ignition, the engine turned off and the rocket did not enter orbit.
This was the 20th launch of the Electron rocket in a mission called Running Out Of Toes. The rocket carried a payload of two satellites to BlackSky, which works with Spaceflight Inc., to be added to its global tracking framework. Satellites were also lost.
“During today’s launch, there was a problem that led to the loss of the mission,” Rocket Lab wrote Twitter. “We are very sorry for our release customers BlackSky and Spaceflight. The problem occurred soon after the second phase of ignition. More information will be provided when they become available.”
Inside something tracking tweet, the company said: “Our team is working hard to identify today’s problem, fix it and get back safely back to the platform as soon as possible.”
In his full statement, Rocket Lab wrote that the problem occurred during the ignition of the second stage. When a rocket is launched, it uses its first stage or booster as fuel to burn the fuel to help it escape the gravity of the earth and move through the atmosphere. When the fuel is exhausted, the first stage drops off and the second stage takes to take the rocket into orbit. It was at this point that the electron problem arose.
The plan for this assignment had been for Rocket Lab to engage in a new first-stage recovery in the Pacific. When the first phase of the rocket spilled into the sea as expected, the company said it would be recovered as planned. As for the second phase, Rocket Lab says it “remained in the predicted launch corridor and did not cause harm to the public, Rocket Lab’s launch or return teams, or the launch site.”
Of Rocket Lab’s 20 Electron fires, 17 have been successful and three have failed. Previous mission failures include one in July last year it was found to be due to an electrical problem.