Australia

New Zealand rocket fails to reach orbit, loses satellites

Auckland: A rocket from small-satellite launch firm Rocket Lab failed to reach orbit minutes after a successful liftoff from New Zealand on Sunday, the company said, losing its payload of seven small satellites it had intended to carry to space.

"An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab's launch that caused the loss of the vehicle," the company said on Twitter, adding more information will be shared as available.

Rocket Lab, pictured hosting a successful 2018 launch from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand north-east coast, says it lost the rocket during its latest launch.

Rocket Lab, pictured hosting a successful 2018 launch from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand north-east coast, says it lost the rocket during its latest launch.Credit:AP

"We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron," the Auckland, New Zealand-based company said. "The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn."

Rocket Lab is one of a growing group of launch companies looking to slash the cost of sending shoebox-sized satellites to low Earth orbit, building smaller rockets and reinventing traditional production lines to meet a growing payload demand.

The rocket's altitude peaked at 195 kilometres roughly seven minutes after liftoff launched from Rocket Lab’s base on the Mahia Peninsula at 9.20am local time, before quickly decreasing, according to in-flight telemetry on the company's live video feed.

The mission, named “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen” was aiming to send five tiny Earth imaging satellites from Planet Labs, one microsatellite from Canon Electronics Inc., and a cubesat from British company In-Space Missions into a sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometres above Earth.

"While it's never the outcome that we hope for, the risk of launch failure is one Planet is always prepared for," Planet Labs said in a statement, adding it looked "forward to flying on the Electron again" in the future.

Reuters with Stuff.co.nz

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