Enlarge / In January, 2018, Rocket Lab reached orbit for the first time with the second launch of its Electron vehicle.Rocket Lab reader comments 7 Share this story Rocket Lab has announced another delay to the launch of its “It’s Business Time” mission, this time until November. But the rocket company seems confident enough that…
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Rocket Lab has announced another delay to the launch of its “It’s Business Time” mission, this time until November. But the rocket company seems confident enough that it has addressed an issue with the rocket motor controller that it has scheduled another launch to take place within weeks of the “It’s Business Time” flight.
Originally, the third flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher was due to occur in April 2018, and this was eventually delayed until June. After engineers discovered an issue with the rocket’s motor controller, the company stood down its launch attempt this summer. According to a news release from the company, this additional time allowed for more analysis, and the motor controllers have been modified and undergone new qualification testing ahead of the next launch.
The company appears to have softened the blow of this additional launch delay until November by promising that the fourth flight of the Electron vehicle will occur “within weeks” of the third flight. That mission is tentatively scheduled for December.
According to the company’s founder and chief executive, Peter Beck, this projected short turnaround is the result of efforts this year to transition from rocket development into regular flight operations. “This year our team focused on scaling up production to churn out Electron rockets at a rate of one per month,” Beck said in the news release. “Now that we’re hitting that production rate, we’re working to get them launched at the same frequency by the end of this year and increasing cadence into 2019.”
The fourth flight of Electron is scheduled to boost NASA’s 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites into orbit, a number of Cubesats that will make various scientific observations. This includes measuring radiation in the Van Allen belts to understand their impact on spacecraft. If it occurs, this mission will also be the first flight of NASA’s new Venture Class Launch Services program, created by the space agency to support the development of small-satellite launchers such as Electron.
The Electron rocket made its maiden flight in May 2017—a test flight that did not quite make it into orbit. A second mission, in January 2018, was successful for the new rocket. But the company has struggled this year to begin operational missions, with multiple delays of the “It’s Business Time” launch, which will carry five different commercial payloads.