Rocket Lab announced on 19 July the results of the review into the cause of the anomaly that resulted in the loss of its “Running Out Of Toes” mission launched on May 15, 2021.
Before that flight company conducted 17 launches without problems and delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit. Although the failed launch affects the reliability statistics of Electron, it is still very reliable. We're confident that it will launch our satellite nicely.
The investigation of the anomaly was done under supervision of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and involved going through thousands of channels of telemetry and systems data from the flight. Rocket Lab's team worked systematically through an extensive fault tree analysis to determine the cause of the failure, according to the press release company published.
The Rocket Lab announcement continues:
"The review concluded that an issue occurred within the second stage engine igniter system almost three minutes and 20 seconds into the flight. This induced a corruption of signals within the engine computer that caused the Rutherford engine’s thrust vector control (TVC) to deviate outside nominal parameters and resulted in the engine computer commanding zero pump speed, shutting down the engine.
The igniter fault resulted from a previously undetectable failure mode within the ignition system that occurs under a unique set of environmental pressures and conditions. The issue was not evident during extensive pre-flight testing for this mission, including more than 400 seconds of burn for this particular engine, more than 1,500 Rutherford engine hot fires to date, and 17 successful orbital launches. Rocket Lab has since been able to reliably replicate the issue in testing and has implemented redundancies in the ignition system to prevent any future reoccurrence, including modifications to the igniter’s design and manufacture."
Despite problems with the second stage, the first stage of Electron made its work as planned, and also reentered into lower atmosphere successfully, splashed down to ocean and was recovered. This is a step ahead in Rocket Lab's efforts to reuse Electron's first stages.
Rocket Lab is now clear to resume launch operations and they're planning to return to the launch pad soon. This also means our launch is becoming closer and closer!