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Rocket Lab delays 2nd Electron test flight until 2018

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket during the Dec. 11 launch attempt. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket during the Dec. 11 launch attempt. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

After four scrubs, the second test flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket has been postponed until early 2018. In the initial release about the launch window, Rocket Lab CEO and CTO Peter Beck said the company was expecting to scrub multiple times as it waits for the perfect conditions and ensures everything on the vehicle performs as designed. That patience was and continues to be needed.

The 10-day launch window for the test, aptly called “Still Testing,” officially opened at 2:30 p.m. New Zealand Time (01:30 GMT) Dec. 8, 2017, and closed on Dec. 17. Each day permitted a four-hour window for the launch attempt.

Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 sits at the end of the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 sits at the end of the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Due to weather concerns in the first few days of the window, the first attempt was quickly pushed to Dec. 11. Around 2:30 p.m. New Zealand Time, the beginning of the four-hour launch window, Rocket Lab scrubbed the first attempt.

“Weather factors and orbital traffic mean opportunities for launch today are tight, so we’ll try again tomorrow,” the company tweeted.

The following day, the weather was fine, but Electron’s launch was aborted due to technical issues.

“The analysis determined the launch was aborted due to rising liquid oxygen (LOX) temperatures feeding into one of the Electron’s nine Rutherford engines on the vehicle’s first stage,” Rocket lab said in a news release. “The slight LOX temperature increase was a result of a LOX chilldown bleed schedule that was not compatible with the warm conditions of the day at Launch Complex-1. Rocket Lab has modified the bleed schedule to ensure components are sufficiently chilled ahead of a new launch attempt.”

There was no attempt on Dec. 13 due to weather and rest requirements, according to Rocket Lab’s Twitter account. On Dec. 14, the Electron launch attempt was scrubbed again due to increasing upper level winds.

On Dec. 15, Rocket Lab discovered a power fault during ground checkouts, and scrubbed the planned launch attempt for that day and did not attempt a launch on Dec. 16 while its engineers investigated the fault.

When the 10-day window closed on Dec. 17, the company issued a news release stating the second test flight was delayed until early 2018. Rocket Lab opted not to extend the launch window in order to allow its teams to rest.

“Corrective measures have been put in place for the power fault discovered during ground checkouts on [Dec. 15], however with only one day remaining in the launch window Rocket Lab has made the decision to delay an attempt until the new year. The current launch window ends on Sunday 17 December NZDT and will not be extended in order to preserve launch team rest time.”

“New ‘Still Testing’ launch window dates will be released when established early in the new year,” Rocket Lab said.

 

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Rae Botsford End is a freelance writer and editor whose primary work currently is writing technical white papers, contributing to SFI, and working on a speculative fiction novel that she hopes to have published soon. Rae wanted an opportunity to report on the various space-related events in and around Florida's Space Coast and approached SFI's founder about the possibility. Rae now covers an array of subjects for our growing website.

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