Rocket Lab has confirmed the failure of its 41st mission, resulting in the loss of an Earth-observation satellite for Capella Space. The livestream of the mission showed that the rocket’s upper stage failed to properly ignite after separation. This failure marks Rocket Lab’s fourth in 41 flights, following a string of 20 successful launches.
The Electron rocket, ironically named “We Will Never Desert You,” took off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia and experienced a half-hour delay due to elevated levels of solar activity. A graphic displayed during the livestream indicated a successful separation of the lower and upper stages. However, there was a rapid deacceleration shortly after, and the livestream froze.
Rocket Lab has not provided specific information on where the upper stage and satellite may have crashed, but the flight was southeast of Mahia over the Pacific Ocean. An onboard camera captured sparks around the upper stage engine during the ignition process, but Rocket Lab has not offered further details.
The company has stated that it is working with the US Federal Aviation Commission and other supporting agencies to investigate the root cause of the failure. Rocket Lab has a track record of successfully delivering satellites to orbit, with 171 satellites deployed across 37 orbital missions.
Rocket Lab’s next mission, scheduled for the third quarter, will be postponed while corrective actions are implemented. The company is expected to provide revised revenue guidance in the coming days.
This failure comes at a critical time for Rocket Lab as it prepares to launch its much larger Neutron rocket next year, with a higher payload capacity and increased revenue potential. The Neutron rocket is projected to charge customers between US$50 million and US$55 million per flight.
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