Despite its launch failure in July, Rocket Lab has confirmed that it will still conduct a new launch in August, taking another shot at launching one of its Electron rockets. The company says that its team is ‘confident’ that they found the cause of the launch failure that occurred last month, one that resulted in the loss of various payloads, including a satellite that was being launched on behalf of camera company Canon.
On July 4, private space company Rocket Lab experienced an ‘anomaly’ during the launch of its Electron rocket, resulting in the loss of the rocket as well as seven satellites it was carrying. An investigation into the issue has been taking place over the weeks since, and now Rocket Lab is back with an update: it has permission to resume launches in August.
According to the company, its rocket ‘performed a safe shutdown’ that prevented it from reaching orbit, but that did enable it to provide extensive data to the team. Using this mass of data, as well as ‘extensive testing,’ Rocket Lab says that it is confident that it has identified the cause of this incident:
Rocket Lab’s AIB was able to confidently narrow the issue down to a single anomalous electrical connection. This connection was intermittently secure through flight, creating increasing resistance that caused heating and thermal expansion in the electrical component. This caused the surrounding potting compounds to liquefy, leading to the disconnection of the electrical system and subsequent engine shutdown. The issue evaded pre-flight detection as the electrical connection remained secure during standard environmental acceptance testing including vibration, thermal vacuum, and thermal cycle tests.
The company has successfully performed 12 Electron launches, all of which were a success. This is the first time this issue has impacted one of the Rocket Lab missions, and that is because it took ‘incredibly specific and unique circumstances’ for this anomaly to happen, according to company CEO Peter Beck. The FAA has given Rocket Lab permission resume launches in August, something it plans to do with more details to come later on this month.