Tracking System Glitch Delays Rocket Lab’s 1st Commercial Electron Launch

The private spaceflight company Rocket Lab called off the commercial launch debut of Electron rocket in New Zealand early Saturday (June 23) due to an issue with a tracking dish.

Rocket Lab initially aimed to launch the Electron rocket at 8:30 p.m. Friday EDT (02:30 p.m. Saturday local time/0030 GMT) from the company’s seaside Launch Complex 1 on Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand. But cold temperatures delayed the launch at the opening its flight window, then a tracking dish problem cropped up. Rocket Lab was unable to solve that tracking system issue in time to launch during the mission’s 4-hour launch window.

“Electron is healthy but we have not been able to resolve an issue with one of our down range tracking dishes in the Chatham Islands,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck wrote in a Twitter post, adding that it also affected the company’s live webcast. “Ironically this is also required for a solid live stream.”

“It’s Business Time” will mark Rocket Lab’s third flight for Electron, a booster designed to launch small satellite payloads into orbit. It follows two test missions. The first, called “This Is A Test,” launched in May 2017 but failed to reach orbit. A second flight, called “Still Testing,” successfully reached orbit earlier this year.

For this third flight, the Electron is carrying two ocean-tracking nanosatellites for the company Spire, a weather-tracking satellite for the company GeoOptics Inc., and the prototype satellite NABEO. The latter nanosatellite, which is also known as “Pride of Bavaria,” was built by High Performance Space Structure Systems and will deploy a small dragsail in space to test its effectiveness for space junk removal


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