A Rocket Lab Electron rocket lifts off from New Zealand on July 4 with seven small satellites. The rocket’s upper stage shut down prematurely, resulting in the loss of all seven payloads. Credit: Rocket Lab
A detached electrical connector on the second stage of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket caused a failure on a July 4 mission that destroyed seven small commercial satellites, but the company said Friday it is on track to resume launching before the end of August.
Once the electrical system disconnected in flight, it cut power from the rocket’s battery to the electric turbopumps on the Electron’s second stage Rutherford engine. That caused the engine to switch off prematurely around five-and-a-half minutes after the rocket took off from Rocket Lab’s launch base in New Zealand.
The early engine shutdown prevented the rocket from reaching the velocity necessary to enter a stable orbit around Earth, according to Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, a small satellite launch company headquartered in Long Beach, California.
But telemetry continued streaming from the launch vehicle back to Rocket Lab’s control center in Auckland, New Zealand, allowing engineers to analyze data and determine the cause of the failure. The kerosene-fueled second ...