Rocket Lab has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to resume launches this month, after identifying an anomalous electrical connection as the cause of an in-flight failure on July 4, 2020. With corrective measures underway, the next Electron launch has been scheduled for August from Launch Complex 1. Over the past month, Rocket Lab has collaborated on an investigation with the support of the FAA, the primary federal licensing body for commercial space launch activity. Rocket Lab’s Accident Investigation Board (AIB) worked through an extensive fault tree analysis to examine all potential causes for the anomaly that took place late into Rocket Lab’s 13th launch.
On July 4, 2020, the Electron launch vehicle successfully lifted-off from Launch Complex 1 and proceeded through a nominal first stage engine burn, Stage 1-2 separation, Stage 2 ignition, and fairing jettison as planned. Several minutes into the second stage burn, the engine performed a safe shutdown resulting in a failure to reach orbit. Due to the controlled way the engine shut down, Rocket Lab continued to receive telemetry from the vehicle, providing engineers with extensive data to conduct a robust investigation into the issue.
Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s founder and CEO stated that the Rocket Lab team is immensely grateful for the continued support of their customers and the FAA as the company worked meticulously through the flight investigation. “It’s a testament to Electron’s track record of reliability that the FAA has approved us for return to flight already. Electron was the 4th most frequently launched rocket in the world last year and prior to the anomaly we had deployed 53 customer payloads to orbit without fail. Returning to the pad with an even more reliable vehicle for our mission partners is our top priority.”
Rocket Lab is now set to return to the pad in August to launch a dedicated mission from Launch Complex 1 Pad A on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula. Specific details of the launch window will be provided. Read the full story for details of the investigation.