Rocket Lab back in business after first launch since July mission failure

Rocket Lab is back in business. The private spaceflight company on Sunday achieved its first successful rocket launch since its failed flight on July 5 when an issue during the second-stage burn caused the loss of seven satellites belonging to three companies.

The latest mission, called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical,” deployed a 100 kg-class microsatellite for San Francisco-based Capella Space, an information services company providing Earth observation data on demand.

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket departed the launch site at New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on Sunday, August 30 at 8:05 p.m. PT (3:05 p.m. local time on Monday, August 31).

The mission had already missed two launch schedules in recent days due to poor weather, but fortunately, conditions were much more settled for this latest effort, with clear blue skies all around. Here’s the launch:

July’s failed mission, which was attributed to an “anomalous electrical connection,” prompted Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck to post a personal video message in which he apologized to the customers who had satellites on board. He also promised to immediately address the issue in order to make a quick return to flight operations.

Beck founded Rocket Lab in 2006 in an effort to grab a piece of the rideshare market for small-satellite launches using its specially built Electron rocket. Companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Orbit, among others, are also working in the same field.

Similar to SpaceX, Rocket Lab is developing a reusable rocket system to help it reduce operating costs. But whereas SpaceX’s system lands the first-stage booster shortly after launch — it just made such a landing today and you can watch it here –Rocket Lab is planning to use a helicopter with a grappling hook to pluck a falling booster out of the sky as it returns to Earth. It recently demonstrated the feat in a test run using a dummy rocket. As the system isn’t yet ready, Sunday’s mission did not involve booster recovery.

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