Rocket Lab has confirmed the failure of its 41st mission, resulting in the loss of an Earth-observation satellite. The company’s shares were down 6.75% to US$4.70 in late Nasdaq trading after falling as low as US$4.22 during the session. Two and a half minutes after its launch from Mahia, a livestream appeared to show the rocket’s upper stage failing to properly ignite after separation. This marks Rocket Lab’s fourth failure in 41 flights, following a run of 20 successful launches.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck expressed his apologies to their mission partners, Capella Space, and assured that the team is already working on identifying the root cause of the failure. The Electron rocket, named “We Will Never Desert You,” took off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia after a half-hour delay due to solar activity.
During the livestream, the launch appeared successful initially, but then there was a rapid deceleration before the video froze. Mission Control stated that they had experienced an anomaly and would investigate and take action accordingly. Rocket Lab’s communication director confirmed that the launch vehicle and payload would have entered the Pacific Ocean several hundred kilometers southeast of the launch site.
Rocket Lab is now working closely with the US Federal Aviation Commission and other supporting agencies to investigate the root cause of the failure. The Electron rocket has previously completed 37 successful orbital missions, delivering 171 satellites to orbit. The company plans to swiftly identify the issue, implement corrective actions, and resume launches. The next mission, scheduled for the third quarter, will be postponed while corrective actions are taken.
Looking ahead, Rocket Lab is preparing for the launch of its much larger Neutron rocket, which is expected to carry more valuable payloads. The Neutron will be able to carry up to 15 tonnes of satellites to orbit and is projected to cost between US$50 million and US$55 million per launch. Rocket Lab assures that they will work to provide revised third-quarter revenue guidance in the coming days.