Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle will resume ferrying satellites and other payloads to space this month. The FAA has given the company the go-ahead to launch Electron rockets again after figuring out why its 13th mission ended in failure. In early July, Rocket Lab’s “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen” mission resulted in the loss of both the rocket and its satellite payloads, including a Canon satellite that was supposed to demonstrate an Earth imaging camera system before it enters mass production. The company launched an investigation with the FAA and managed to pinpoint the culprit: an anomalous electrical connection.
Apparently, one of the rocket’s electrical connections was “intermittently secure through flight,” increasing resistance and causing the component to heat up and expand. That, in turn, caused surrounding components to liquefy, which led to the electrical system’s disconnection and ultimately to the engine’s shutdown a few minutes into the second stage burn.
In its announcement, Rocket Lab said that it was able to gather the data it needs, because the vehicle was unharmed and was able to continue sending information to its ground team. It also explained that it wasn’t able to detect the issue before the flight, because the electrical connection remained secure throughout testing. However, its now knows that the issue can be avoided through additional tests. Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a statement:
“The issue occurred under incredibly specific and unique circumstances, causing the connection to fail in a way that we wouldn’t detect with standard testing. Our team has now reliably replicated the issue in test and identified that it can be mitigated through additional testing and procedures.”
The next Electron launch doesn’t have an exact date yet, but it will take off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.