Rocket Lab: New Zealand’s last mission lost in flight

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Rocket Lab

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The Electron mission was lost approximately six minutes after leaving the Mahia Peninsula


The American launch company that flares its rockets out of New Zealand has lost its last mission.

Rocket Lab said its Electron vehicle had failed late in its ascent of the Mahia Peninsula on the North Island.

It is assumed that all of the satellite payloads have been destroyed.

These included imagery of spacecraft from Canon Electronics in Japan and Planet Labs Inc of California, as well as a technology demonstration platform from a British start-up called In-Space Missions.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has apologized to his customers.

“I am extremely sorry that we did not deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured that we will find the problem, fix it and come back to the pavement soon, “he said on Twitter.

Rocket Lab has made everyone sit in the space sector since the launch of its Electron vehicle in 2017. It is at the head of a wave of new outfits who wish to use compact rockets to serve the emerging market of small satellites.

New Zealand’s takeoff on Saturday was the Electron’s 13th outing to date. All previous launches had been a complete success, with the exception of the very first which had not reached its planned orbit.

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Space missions

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Faraday-1 was approximately 10 cm x 20 cm x 30 cm


What did not work this time is unclear. Video footage showed that the second stage rocket engine was operating normally six minutes after flight, at an altitude of 192 km and at a speed of 3.8 km / s. The video stream then froze.

The main payload on board was a Canon Electronics satellite – part of a series the company is producing to imagine ground characteristics less than a meter in diameter.

Planet, which operates the largest network of imagery spacecraft in orbit, was trying to make five of its latest versions of satellites. Because the San Francisco company produces and launches so many spacecraft, it can more easily bounce back from this failure.

But for the start-up In-Space Missions, the loss of the Electron is a major disappointment. Its Faraday-1 platform was to be the showcase for the company’s new service.

Faraday-1 was a kind of “carpool” satellite that allowed third parties to fly payloads in orbit without having to build and finance an entire spacecraft themselves. They just needed to rent a “seat” with In-Space.

The European aerospace giant Airbus had even taken a place in Faraday-1 to test a new radio technology. Called Prometheus, this equipment must have carried out a radio frequency survey, scanning the globe in search of distress beacons and military radar activities.

Borden, Hampshire-based In-Space tweeted, “The In-Space team is absolutely flabbergasted by this news. Two years of hard work by an incredibly committed group of brilliant engineers in smoke. It was a really cool little spaceship. ”

Future missions are already in production.

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AIRBUS

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Airbus Prometheus radio would have carried out radio spectrum surveys


Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @BBCAmos

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