Rocket Lab's Canon Launch Ends in Devastating Failure

Pablo Tucker
July 7, 2020

This isn't the end, then, but it suggests that Rocket Lab may have work to do before it's a completely reliable option for getting machines into space.

Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck posted an apology to Twitter, noting that all satellites were lost, and that he's "incredibly sorry" to all customer who suffered loss of payload today.

Rocket Lab's "Pic or it didn't happen" launch on Saturday ended in failure, with a total loss of the Electron launch vehicle and all seven payloads on board.

The mission, named "Pics Or It Didn't Happen, also included five shoebox-sized Earth observation satellites, for San Francisco company Planet, created to image Earth from above".

The rocket also carried five Earth-imaging satellites designed by the company Planet, and one small satellite, the Faraday-1, designed by the In-Space Missions start-up.

In a statement, Rocket Lab said: "An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab's launch that caused the loss of the vehicle".

Footage on Rocket Lab's website showed the electron rocket blasting off, leaving the Earth's atmosphere, and preparing to deploy satellites. The rocket launch itself, not including the satellite equipment on board, started at US$7.5 million ($11.5m), he said. The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn.

"As a result, the payloads onboard Electron were not deployed to orbit". The company is now investigating the cause of the anomaly alongside the Federal Aviation Administration, with a view to returning to action soon.

"Today's anomaly is a reminder that space launch can be unforgiving, but we will identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible".

Beck praised the launch team for their "professionalism and expertise", and for handing the situation safely.

Every rocket has a failure at some point and this probably "hurts our pride more than anything", said Rocket Lab co-founder and chief executive Peter Beck of today's mission failure - the company's first after 12 successful flights.

The primary payload for the launch was a 67kg imaging satellite built by Canon Electronics, whose launch was arranged by Spaceflight Inc. "I'm proud of the way they have responded to a tough day". "This unprecedented dataset helps researchers, students, businesses and governments discover patterns, detect early signals of change, and make timely, informed decisions".

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