Elon Musk and other competitors rushed to support Rocket Lab after startup founder apologized for losing 7 satellites in launch failure


  • Rocket Lab, a private space flight company in New Zealand, failed to deliver seven satellites into orbit after a launch on Saturday.
  • Company founder and CEO Peter Beck publicly apologized to his clients on Twitter for the loss of the space mission.
  • After his mea culpas, Beck and Rocket Lab saw a wave of support from Elon Musk of SpaceX and other leading figures in the space flight industry.
  • “Sorry to hear that. I hope you will return to orbit soon. Rockets are tough, ”Musk tweeted in response to a video from Beck.
  • Visit the Business Insider home page for more stories.

If Apple or Google has ever launched a failed gadget product, the last thing you would expect is a heartwarming public apology.

As for the orbital rocket industry, however, the atmosphere is much more collegial.

Over the weekend, the small launch company Rocket Lab experienced a ruinous setback: the total loss of an operational space mission valued at millions of dollars. But instead of rejoicing or simply ignoring the failure, the leaders of space companies competing with the start-up of about 1.4 billion dollars have mobilized to offer their public support.

Rocket Lab’s failed mission, called “Pics Or It Didnt Happen” – in line with the company’s other cheeky flights – was its 13th attempt to reach orbit with Electron, a six-story launcher. On board were seven satellites for three different customers.

However, a few minutes after a successful takeoff from one of the company’s launch pads in New Zealand, the second rocket or upper stage of the Electron failed. Rocket Lab has lost the satellite lot about 121 miles (195 km) above Earth, according to a live broadcast on YouTube – long before the spacecraft reaches its target altitude of 310 miles (500 km) and the speed required to get into orbit.

rocket laboratory electronic vehicle orbital launcher ELaNa19 takeoff launch zealand Trevor Mahlmann

One of Rocket Lab’s six-story Electron launchers takes off from New Zealand.

Trevor Mahlmann / Rocket Lab

After the failure, Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, publicly apologized in two separate Twitter posts.

“We lost the flight late in the mission. I am extremely sorry that I did not deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured that we will find the problem, fix it and get back on track soon, ”Beck tweeted on July 4.

The CEO then recorded a 92-second video, which Rocket Lab shared via his Twitter account the same day.

“It’s fair to say that today has been a pretty tough day,” said Beck, speaking to the company’s customers. “Believe me, we feel and we share your disappointment. However, we will not leave any details to find out exactly what happened today so that we can learn from it and safely return to the mat. He added that “many Electron launchers are in production” and that the company is “ready for a quick return to flight”.

“I hope you will be back in orbit soon. Rockets are hard ‘

In response to the tweets, Rocket Lab saw a wave of favorable comments, including some of its competitors.

“Sorry to hear about it.” I hope you will return to orbit soon. Rockets are tough, ”tweeted Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, in response to Beck’s video.

Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, tweeted a brief but encouraging message to his colleague: “Hang in there, Peter. ”

Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit – who recently failed to launch a test mission in space – spoke publicly on behalf of the company.

“Peter, I wish you and the Rocketlab team all the best that you can quickly find and fix the problem and continue your great success record. Dan, and all of us here at Virgin Orbit, “said Hart.

Eric Stallmer, president of the Federation of Commercial Space Flights, also provided support.

“I’m really sorry to hear this @Peter_J_Beck keeping up the pace and the great work,” Stallmer tweeted.

Rocket Lab even received a message of support from Planet Labs: one of the companies whose five terrestrial imagery satellites it destroyed.

“Although this is never the result we hope for, the risk of launch failure is what Planet is always ready for,” Planet Labs told Reuters, adding that he was looking forward to resuming flight with the Electron. in the future.

Before Saturday’s failure – the first loss of 12 operational missions from Rocket Lab so far (its first mission, a test launch in 2017, did not reach orbit) – the company planned to launch its next Electron vehicle from NASA Wallops flight facility in Virginia in August.

Although the engineers are investigating the cause of the failure, a company spokesperson told Business Insider in an email that the loss “will likely have minimal impact on the schedule for our next missions”, but has noted that it was “too early to give new schedules” for these launches. .

The spokesperson also said that “the Rocket Lab investigation is progressing well and we are working to get back to the carpet soon.”


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