Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket will likely return to flight before the year is out, though work remains to be complete before missions can resume, according to a new statement released Wednesday.
Rocket Lab said it had received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to resume Electron launches from the company’s New Zealand launch complex, but that does not mean that the regulator has given the greenlight. Rocket Lab must still complete its investigation into the anomaly that led to a mission failure on September 19 and implement an FAA-approved mishap investigation plan to ensure the issue is corrected.
“Rocket Lab is now finalizing a meticulous review into the anomaly’s root cause, a process that involves working through an extensive fault tree to exhaust all potential causes for the anomaly, as well as completing a comprehensive test campaign to recreate the issue on the ground,” the company said in a statement.
Company-led mishap investigations, which are overseen and approved of by the FAA, are standard practice after a rocket launch failure. Rocket Lab said it anticipates completing the full review “in the coming weeks.”
Rocket Lab did not give any intimation into what might’ve caused the failure in September, which led to the loss of a synthetic aperture radar satellite from Capella Space. The issue occurred approximately two-and-a-half minutes after lift-off right after the second stage’s single Rutherford engine ignited. In a statement, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck simply said that they knew “the fault was going to be something complex and extremely rare that hasn’t presented in testing or flight before” given Electron’s flight heritage.
The anomaly occurred during Rocket Lab’s 41st Electron launch. Prior to the anomaly, the company had completed 20 consecutive orbital launches.