Enlarge /. The mission "Pictures or it didn't happen" takes off.
Rocket Lab launched its 13th mission on Sunday morning, local time in New Zealand. The first stage of the booster was normal, but when the second stage approached 200 km, something went wrong and the vehicle was lost.
Immediately after the failure, the company did not provide additional information about the problem that had arisen in the second stage.
"We lost the flight late in the mission," said Peter Beck, the company's founder and CEO, on Twitter. "I'm incredibly sorry that we didn't ship satellites to our customers today. Rest assured, we'll find the problem, fix it, and be back on the pad soon."
The mission, which was labeled "Images or It Didn't Happen," included 5 SuperDove satellites for the imaging company Planet, as well as commercial payloads for both Canon Electronics and in-space missions.
"The In-Space team is absolutely disappointed with this news," said the company after the loss. The Faraday-1 spacecraft hosted several experiments in a 6U CubeSat. "Two years of hard work by an incredibly dedicated group of brilliant engineers in Rauch. It was really a very cool little spaceship."
Before this weekend's failure, Rocket Lab had an outstanding success. The company's first test flight in May 2017 was lost at an altitude of 224 km due to a problem with the ground software. But from its next flight in January 2018 to June 2020, the company had canceled a series of eleven successful missions and had become a major player in the small satellite launch industry. The company built two additional launch pads, one in New Zealand and one in Virginia, United States, and took steps to reuse its first stage booster.
It is likely that Rocket Lab will keep Beck's promise to fix this bug and return to the flight soon. It was the first commercial company of a new generation of small satellite missile developers to reach orbit and is still the only one to do so today. Other competitors, including Virgin Orbit, Astra and Firefly, could reach orbit later this year. However, Rocket Lab has a lot of experience to identify and fix the underlying problem in the second phase. There can be little doubt that they will.