Rocket Lab Returns to Flight With Successful Electron Launch

Rocket Lab's 'I Can't Believe It's Not Optical' mission was launched into orbit without a hitch.
Chris Young

Rocket Lab has completed its first post-COVID-19 launch after a failure last month. The company launched a 220-pound (100 kg) Earth-observation satellite using its Electron rocket.

The launch took place on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand at 11:05 PM EDT on August 30. It sets Rocket Lab back on track after the company's failed launch on July, 4 where it lost seven satellites, including one from Canon.


Lessons learned

Rocket Lab was able to determine that the July failure was caused by a single faulty electrical connection that led to the engine's shutdown only a few minutes into the second stage burn, Engadget reports.

Since that failure, the company was able to "reliably replicate" the issue and fix it from happening again in future launches.

'I Can't Believe It's Not Optical'

Rocket Lab's mission was called 'I Can't Believe It's Not Optical' due to the nature of its payload — the Electron's payload was the 'Sequoia' satellite from San Francisco-based Capella Space.

The 'Sequoia' uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instead of optical lenses to provide incredibly detailed Earth images. The space-based radar — which can be used for applications ranging from agriculture to security — is able to detect sub-0.5 meter changes on the Earth's surface.

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'I Can't Believe It's Not Optical' is Rocket Lab's 14th successful launch. Prior to the July 4th failure, the company had made 11 consecutive successful launches. Much like SpaceX, one of Rocket Lab's primary missions is to reduce the cost of spaceflight. In future launches, it aims to recover first stage boosters using a clever helicopter-parachute system.

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