Rocket Lab suffered a launch failure on Sunday, July 5, which resulted in the loss of its Electron rocket and payload minutes after lifting off from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
The issue that ended the mission occurred several minutes into the flight during the vehicle’s second-stage burn, leading to the loss of seven satellites in a rideshare mission involving three companies.
Following the incident, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck posted a personal video message (below) apologizing for the failed launch while at the same time stating his team’s determination to discover what went wrong so that it can return to flight soon.
A brief statement about today’s mission from our founder and CEO, Peter Beck. pic.twitter.com/QUShtzp7J0
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) July 5, 2020
“It’s fair to say that today was a pretty tough day,” Beck said in his address.
“To our customers, we are deeply sorry for the loss of those payloads. Believe me, we feel and we share your disappointment. However, we will leave no stone unturned to figure out exactly what happened today so that we can learn from it and get back to the pad safely.”
Beck pointed out that the Electron is one of the most frequently launched rockets in the world today, with 12 consecutive launches under its belt, but added, “Today’s issue was a reminder that spaceflight can be very unforgiving. It’s certainly a day we never wanted to experience.”
The CEO also noted that no people or property were in harm’s way at any time, with the rocket taking a safe re-entry trajectory.
Beck set up Rocket Lab in 2006 as a small-satellite launcher for companies seeking access to space. To date, it has deployed 53 satellites via 12 launches. SpaceX is also in the same market, recently launching its Smallsat Rideshare Program for small-satellite deployment.
Seattle-based Spaceflight, which was working with Rocket Lab to deploy a Canon Electronics satellite in Sunday’s mission, said that while it was disappointed, it is “always aware that launch failures are part of the business of space.” It added, “We have faith in all our launch vehicles, including Electron, and look forward to many more successful launches with them.”
U.K. startup In-Space Missions, which also had a satellite on board the rocket, said it was “absolutely gutted” by the mission failure, though Doug Liddle, its CEO and founder, insisted his team “will not be deterred by this unfortunate accident.”
San Francisco-based Planet, which lost five satellites aboard the Electron, said it had “full faith that Rocket Lab will be able to bounce back from today’s failure in no time, and we look forward to flying on the Electron again.”
Beck closed his video message by saying that his team is now “combing through the data to learn and prepare for the next mission,” adding, “We have many Electron launch vehicles in production and we’re ready for a rapid return to flight as soon as these investigations are complete and, of course, all of the correct measures are in place.”
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