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FAA Approves Rocket Lab to Resume Launches as Failure Investigation Continues 

By Rachel Jewett | June 2, 2021

A view of the Electron rocket for the “Running Out Of Toes” mission on May 15, which failed. Photo: Rocket Lab

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given Rocket Lab approval to resume launching, as the smallsat launcher is working through a review of its May 15 launch failure. 

Rocket Lab announced Wednesday that the FAA confirmed its launch license is active, but the launcher does not plan to return to flight until its own internal review is complete. That review is expected to be complete in the coming weeks. 

The May 15 launch failure occurred after second stage ignition, when the engine computer detected that conditions for flight were not met and initiated a safe shut down, losing satellites for customer BlackSky. This was the second Electron failure in less than a year after a July 2020 launch lost satellites for Canon Electronics, Planet, and In-Space. The 2020 failure was determined to be caused by a single electrical connection with an anomaly. 

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck gave an update on Rocket Lab’s investigation, and called it an “intricate and layered failure analysis.” 

“We have successfully replicated the failure in testing and determined it required multiple conditions to occur in flight. We are now piecing together the sequence of events and preparing corrective actions for a safe and swift return to flight.”