Rocket Lab preparing for their return to flight; Strongback installed at new launchpad

Rocket Lab is continuing progress on their latest launch pad located at their New Zealand facility, LC-1B, with the installation of the strongback. The Electron launch vehicle has been grounded since an in-flight failure of the second stage engine. The anomaly investigation is still underway, but the FAA has cleared Electron for flight.

The failure occurred just after stage separation and second stage engine ignition. RocketLab says “the engine computer detected that conditions for the flight were not met and performed a safe shut down.” Everything else about the flight went well with the first stage performing perfectly. This flight did result in the loss of payload and vehicle, leading to the grounding of Electron.

The FAA had oversight into the anomaly investigation that Rocket Lab was conducting, and cleared Electron for flight once the issue was identified. Even though the FAA has cleared Electron for flight, Rocket Lab is still conducting its anomaly investigation to identify and correct this potential failure mode.

New Zealand Launchpad Work

While Electron has been grounded, teams have still progressed on the second launchpad located at their New Zealand facility. Launch Complex 1 B (LC-1B) is being built near the existing infrastructure. This will allow for parallel launch flows to increase launch cadence. However, these two pads are not the only facilities Rocket Lab has constructed. Electron will also fly from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport out of Wallops, Virginia (LC-2).

Electron at LC-2 for a Wet Dress Rehearsal | Image Cedit: Rocket Lab

The next flight of Electron is still TBA but is expected to occur soon. LC-2 is still being prepared for flight, with the Flight Termination System being the main holdup. Rocket Lab is developing an FTS solution for other launch providers to provide a smoother approval path.

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