Rocket Labs announced last Monday (August 7, 2017) about reasons for disaster of their Electron rocket “It’s a Test” during its maiden flight performed on May 25, 2017 at New Zealand’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula.
First flight of 17 m long rocket (1.2 m of diameter) powered with nine Rutherford engines fueled RP-1/LOX propellant was performed on May 25, 2017 from first in New Zealand launch pad at Mahia Peninsula. Unfortunately for Rocket Labs, manufacturer and designer of the rocket, vehicle reached 224 km and communication with ground control station was lost. Rocket failed to reach LEO orbit and was completely destroyed.
Engineers from Rocket Labs managed to finally finish analysis of data from 25000 channels recorder during short flight of Electron and presented results of their research. It was announced that flight was terminated due the data time loss out, which was result of wrong configuration of telemetry equipment provided by one of subcontractors.
Until rocket reached 224 km everything seemed to be perfectly fine. Rocket was on correct trajectory what was confirmed after analysis of data recorded by secondary telemetry payload installed and manufactured by Rocket Labs. Unfortunately main telemetry instrument failed and rocket terminated flight due the loss of telemetry data. Direct source of the problem was device translating radio signals into data, which was not configured properly. Subcontractor which installed that device omitted switching on forward error correction, what led to data misinterpretation and made evaluating position of the rocket impossible. Engineers from Rocket Labs confirmed that data from their own equipment were correct and even device provided by subcontractor after setting forward error correction to on performed just as it should. Analysis of the recorded data showed no other errors during last flight.
Another launch of the Electron “Still Testing” is passing last tests before delivering to Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula. Date of the launch was not unveiled but it is possible that another Electron will be launched to reach Low Earth Orbit already in 2017.