Rocket Lab announced that it is planning to resume its Electron launches at the end of November. The company’s Electron rocket has been grounded since September due to a launch failure. Rocket Lab is targeting November 28 for the return to flight and the rocket will carry a radar imaging satellite for Japanese company iQPS on a dedicated mission.
During an earnings call, Rocket Lab Chief Executive Peter Beck explained that the failure occurred due to an “unexpected electrical arc” in the power supply for the upper stage. This arc resulted from a combination of factors including a ripple voltage in the power system, traces of helium gas, and an undetectable flaw in the insulation. Beck stated that the probability of all these factors aligning to cause the failure was “largely improbable”.
To prevent a similar incident from happening again, Rocket Lab will enhance the ground testing of the upper stage to detect potential arcing problems and pressurize the upper stage’s battery frame section to prevent arcing conditions. Beck expressed confidence that these measures will solve the problem.
Rocket Lab has a busy launch manifest for next year, with 22 launches planned, including two suborbital launches of the Electron variant called HASTE. The company expects to see an increase in its launch activity and may raise prices due to the high demand for the Electron.
In terms of financial results, Rocket Lab reported $67.7 million in revenue for the quarter and an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) loss of $15.5 million. The company anticipates positive trends in revenues and gross margins as it continues to increase its Electron launches and deliver Globalstar satellites.
Rocket Lab is also actively working on the development of its larger reusable launch vehicle, Neutron. Progress on Neutron has been promising, with several recent milestones reached on tanks, structures, and the Archimedes engine. The first Neutron launch is still scheduled for the end of 2024.