LAS VEGAS — Rocket Lab is preparing to return its Electron rocket to flight before the end of the year as it completes an investigation into a launch failure in September.
In an Oct. 25 statement, the company said it received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to resume launches under its existing launch license from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.
Those launches have been on hold since the failure of the most recent Electron launch Sept. 19. In that launch, the engine in the upper stage appeared to shut down moments after ignition, based on telemetry displayed during the launch webcast. The failure resulted in the loss of a Capella Space synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite.
The authorization from the FAA does not mean the investigation is complete. Rocket Lab said in the statement that it was completing a “meticulous review” into the root cause of the failure. That review, the company said, should be done in the coming weeks, allowing Electron launches to resume before the end of the year.
The announcement did not disclose any details about what might have caused the failure, beyond stating that the rocket’s first stage performed as expected and did not contribute to the anomaly.
The company has said little about the failure since the accident. In an Oct. 4 interview, Adam Space, Rocket Lab’s chief financial officer, said only that the investigation was in its “early days” and that the company expected a return to flight of Electron similar to two previous failures in July 2020 and May 2021.
In the announcement, Rocket Lab suggested that a complex chain of events contributed to the failure. “After more than 40 launches, Electron is a proven, mature design with a well-established manufacturing process behind it, so we knew the fault was going to be something complex and extremely rare that hasn’t presented in testing or flight before,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in the statement.
Rocket Lab also has not disclosed the financial impacts yet of the launch failure on the company beyond a Sept. 26 statement where the company revised downward its revenue guidance for the third quarter to reflect a launch that was planned for the third quarter but was now delayed by the failure. The company will release its third quarter financial results Nov. 8.