Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket malfunctions then explodes carrying BlackSky Satellites into orbit

Christian Khoury

May 15 2021

Rocket Labs Electron Rocket took off from their Space complex stationed in New Zealand early Saturday morning carrying a payload of two BlackSky Satellites set to be put into orbit.

A successful launch of the rocket set the team on a successful course of flight, until things took an unexpected turn. This unfortunate turn of events is Rocket Labs second failed launch in less than a year. The first stage’s engine burn appeared to end as planned about two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. Moments later, on-board video showed the carbon composite booster stage separating from the upper stage. 6 minutes into flight, the crew was supposed to see separation and firing of the second stage Rutherford engine, but instead after separation, the on-board camera showed the payload spinning out of control. On board data showed the rockets speed drastically changing constantly, showing the team had a major problem on their hands. “We are deeply sorry to our customer BlackSky for the loss of their payloads,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO. “We understand the monumental effort that goes into every spacecraft and we feel their loss and disappointment. Our team is working hard to identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible.”

This second failure comes after another failed launch of the Electron Rocket back in July of 2020. The error was diagnosed as an electrical failure that detached during launch, causing the rocket to fail completely, destroying multiple small satellite payloads on board. Rocket Lab did have some good news out of the launch though; the Electron Rocket’s booster fell back to earth successfully, meaning if the booster was untouched, Rocket Lab will see a much sooner launch in the future.

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