Rocket Lab’s 41st mission, named “We Will Never Desert You,” ended in failure after its Electron rocket suffered an unspecified anomaly two and a half minutes after launch.
The company’s two-stage launch vehicle lifted off on Tuesday at 2:55 a.m. ET from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, carrying a radar imaging satellite by Capella Space. The rocket cleared Max-Q (the moment of most aerodynamic stress), and pulled off a first stage burn and stage separation. Around two minutes and 30 seconds after its launch, however, Electron experienced an issue that resulted in the mission failure, Rocket Lab announced.
“We are working closely with the [Federal Aviation Administration] and supporting agencies as the investigation into the root cause commences,” Rocket Lab wrote in its emailed statement. “We will identify the issue swiftly and implement corrective actions and return to the pad shortly.”
Tuesday’s anomaly marks Electron’s third mission failure, according to SpaceNews (and the rocket’s fourth launch failure, including its inaugural flight in 2017). The small rocket failed to reach orbit due to an engine failure in July 2020, and once again in May 2021 when its upper-stage engine shut down seconds after ignition. All in all, Electron has pulled off 37 successful launches.
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The company had been enjoying recent success. In July, Rocket Lab launched seven satellites on board its Electron rocket before its booster was recovered by a parachute-assisted ocean splashdown to test its reusability. Rocket Lab was inching closer in its competition with industry leader SpaceX, with booster reusability being a major priority for the company.
Following its latest mission failure, however, Rocket Lab’s stock dropped by 20% in premarket trading, CNBC reported. The stock was up 34% for the year as the market closed on Monday.
Rocket Lab’s next mission, which was scheduled before the end of this year’s third quarter, has been postponed as the company implements corrective actions.