Satellite-Carrying Rocket launch 13th mission failed on Saturday, after “the company had encountered an anomaly” after launching into space. As a result, Rocket Lab lost both its Rocket and all the satellites it brought on board.
After a smooth takeoff at 5:19 PM ET from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand on Saturday, a rocket from small-satellite launch company Rocket Lab failed to enter orbit minutes, the company stated, dropping its payload of seven small satellites that it planned to take into space.
The launch seemed to continue ideally for the first critical minutes, but a live video from the Rocket stuck about six minutes after the launch. Rocket Lab’s Livestream at that point showed that the vehicle was starting to lose energy, and the Rocket was falling in altitude.
“An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle,” the company Tweeted, explaining that more details will be provided as necessary.
Finally, Rocket Lab shut off the Livestream. The company announced today that the Electron rocket was lost during the mission. The company said that the unknown problem happened around four minutes after the launch.
“We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron,” the Auckland, New Zealand-based company said. “The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn.”
A brief statement about today's mission from our founder and CEO, Peter Beck. pic.twitter.com/QUShtzp7J0
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) July 5, 2020
Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, apologized for the loss. “We are profoundly sorry about the loss of their payloads to our customers Canon Electronics Inc., Spaceflight Inc., Planet and In-Space Flights,” Beck said during a statement. “We know that many people started pouring their heart and soul into those satellites. Today’s incident teaches that launching space can be harsh, but we can find the issues as quickly as possible, resolve them, and be safely back on the ground.
Rocket Lab is among a growing group of launch companies aiming to reduce the cost of sending shoebox-sized spacecraft to low Earth orbit, developing small rockets, and inventing traditional production plants to meet the rising demand for rockets.
The flight, entitled “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen,” brought mostly small satellites imaging the Earth. The primary payload was the CE-SAT-IB from Canon Electronics, meant to prove Earth-imaging technology with wide-angle higher resolution cameras. The Rocket was also carrying five SuperDove satellites from Planet company, planned to image Earth from above. The last payload was a small In-Space Missions satellite called Faraday-1, hosting several instruments from companies and other organizations that wanted a trip to space.
According to in-flight telemetry on the company’s live video feed, the Rocket’s altitude reached about seven minutes after launch 121 miles (195 km) before decreasing rapidly.
Planet CEO Will Marshall reported the satellites’ loss on Twitter, adding that the company expects to launch even more satellites on two separate launches this summer. “While it’s never the outcome we wish for, one Planet is still prepared for the chance of launch failure,” the firm said in a statement. In August, the planet is about to fly up to 26 of its SuperDove spacecraft from South America on a European Vega rocket.
Rocket Lab has been putting 53 spacecraft into low Earth orbit on 12 separate missions since its inception, with this year’s third launch for Rocket Lab this weekend. Much of the flight at the company was successful.
Rocket Lab’s very first flight in 2017, dubbed “It’s a Check,” was the only flight that did not work as planned; the Rocket launched successfully and made it into space but did not enter orbit. Until then, all the other flights of Rocket Lab have been high image, making today’s trip the company’s first big disappointment.