Rocket Lab's first launch since failed mission

Katie Ramirez
September 2, 2020

The mission that Rocket Lab dubbed "I Can't Believe It's Not Optical", was the young space startup's fourth this year and takes the company's total number of satellites deployed to 54.

Rocket Lab has successfully returned its Electron rocket to service with the launch of the Sequoia Earth observation satellite for Capella Space.

July's failed mission, which was attributed to an "anomalous electrical connection", prompted Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck to post a personal video message in which he apologized to the customers who had satellites on board.

The company confirmed shortly after 4pm that it had successfully deployed the rocket's payload - a 100-kilogram Sequoia satellite built by United States firm Capella Space.

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Its orbit would maximise coverage of "important areas" such as the Middle East, Korea, Japan, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the United States, it said. The team's investigation revealed a component of the system that was not stress-tested as strenuously as it should've been, and Rocket Lab immediately instituted a fix for both future and existing in-stock Electron vehicles in order to get back to active flight in as little time as possible.

Rocket Lab said the satellite could be used for agricultural and infrastructure monitoring and disaster response and recovery, as well as for security purposes. Electron is the ideal launch vehicle for missions like this one, where the success of a foundational deployment relies heavily on a high level of control over orbit and schedule.

Rocket Lab has monthly launches scheduled for the remainder of 2020, including Rocket Lab's first attempt to recover an Electron first stage after launch.

Speaking ahead of Monday's launch, Rocket Lab spokeswoman Morgan Bailey said nerves were "part and parcel of every launch day". Capella had been intending to launch this spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket via a rideshare mission, but after delays to that flight, it changed tack and opted for a dedicated launch with Rocket Lab.

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