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Rocket Lab Electron Mission Fails, Losing Capella Space Satellite

By Rachel Jewett | September 19, 2023

      Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket on the launch pad, before the Sept. 19 mission failure. Photo: Rocket Lab

      Rocket Lab’s launch for Capella Space on Tuesday failed, the company’s first Electron failure in more than two years. The mission lost one satellite for the customer. 

      The mission, called “We Will Never Desert You” took off from New Zealand at 6:55 p.m. local time, 2:55 a.m. ET.  The rocket successfully completed a first stage burn and stage separation as planned. Rocket Lab said in a statement there was an issue around 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the flight, resulting in the end of the mission.

      In the launch broadcast, stage separation was shown, but the camera cut off just after. 

      “Tough day. My deepest apologies to our mission partners Capella Space. Team is already working on [the] root cause. We’ll find it, fix it and be back on the pad quickly,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted. 

      Rocket Lab said the next mission, which was scheduled before the end of the third quarter, will be postponed while the company addresses the anomaly. Rocket Lab plans to revise third quarter revenue guidance. Rocket Lab was expecting to launch four missions during the third quarter, and this was the third of those launches. Rocket Lab set a target of 15 launches in 2023, and this was the eighth launch. 

      Capella Space is a longtime customer of Rocket Lab, and this launch was the second in a four-mission dedicated launch campaign. The payload was one of Capella’s third-generation synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, named Acadia

      “We will work with Rocket Lab on finding paths to get back to orbit. We have more satellite launches in the coming months,” Capella CEO Payam Banazadeh tweeted.

      This is Electron’s third failure since the Rocket reached orbit for the first time in 2018. Previous failures were in July 2020 and May 2021. The Electron rocket has delivered 171 satellites to orbit across 37 successful orbital missions.