Misconfigured Communications Equipment Prevents Rocket Lab’s First Test Rocket from Reaching Orbit

First flight launch of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket from New Zeland.

First flight launch of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket from New Zeland.

January 15, 2018 | Source: The Verge, theverge.com, 7 August 2017, Loren Grush

Aerospace startup Rocket Lab says it knows why the first test launch of its small rocket failed to reach orbit in May. The failure had nothing to do with the rocket itself, but instead the mission was terminated early because of a problem with ground equipment supporting the launch. Now that Rocket Lab knows what happened, the company says there’s an easy fix and will take corrective measures so the failure doesn’t happen again.

The May test launch — dubbed “It’s a Test” — was the first flight ever of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. The vehicle, which launches from New Zealand, has been under development for the last four years, and Rocket Lab is now finally doing full-scale test flights through the end of the year. Ultimately, the Electron is capable of carrying payloads between 330 and 500 pounds into orbit, and is specifically geared toward launching small satellites. Rocket Lab plans to sell launches on the vehicle for $4.9 million per flight, a cheap price tag compared to other larger commercial rockets that run tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

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