On May 15, Rocket Lab conducted its 20th launch of the Electron small rocket. The main purpose of the mission was to orbit two BlackSky satellites, designed for remote sensing of the Earth. The company also wanted to re-test the technique of returning the first stage by parachuting it into the ocean.
The launch of the Electron rocket. Source: Andrew Burns and Sam Toms
Initially everything went well. The first stage worked in normal mode and separated from the launcher. The accident occurred at the moment of activation of the second stage engine. Judging by the broadcast footage, just a few seconds after launch, it shut down. As a result, the stage with a payload was unable to reach the orbit and was lost.
This is Rocket Lab’s second launch failure in the last 12 months. The previous accident in July 2020 also occurred in the second stage section. It was caused by a faulty electrical contact.
Rocket Lab has not yet named the alleged cause of the new accident. As for the first stage, it successfully landed in the ocean and was extracted from the water.