WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab said July 31 an investigation concluded that an “anomalous electrical connection” caused the failure of an Electron rocket launch nearly four weeks earlier, as the company makes plans to return to flight in August.
The company announced that an internal accident investigation board, working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, determined that the faulty connection led to the premature shutdown of the engine in the Electron’s second stage several minutes after liftoff from New Zealand July 4 (U.S. time.)
The failure of the electrical connection caused a loss of power for many systems, including the electric turbopumps that power the engine. “The engine shut down because of insufficient power supply to the electric pumps,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in a call with reporters.
Rocket Lab said the connection was “intermittently secure” throughout the launch, creating electrical resistance that led to heating and thermal expansion of the electrical component. That ultimately caused a disconnection in the overall electrical system, triggering the shutdown.
The problem had not been seen on any previous Electron flights, which flew 728 of those components. Rocket Lab said the problem wasn’t detected in pre-launch tests, but engineers were able ...