Rocket Lab has launched an investigation after an Electron rocket failed to reach orbit during its latest launch off the Mahia Peninsula on the East Coast this morning.
A spokeswoman confirmed to the Herald that the rocket and its payload would not be recoverable but it was too early to comment on the financial implications of the loss.
At a press conference this afternoon Rocket Lab co-founder and CEO Peter Beck said payload customers typically had insurance in place for these kinds of events. The Rocket launch itself, not including the satellite equipment on board, started at US$7.5 million, he said.
"The financial loss here is generally covered from our customers by insurance," Beck said.
"The bigger loss for us as a company is the time that it's going to take for us to investigate fully and make the corrective actions to the launch vehicle. So we won't put another vehicle in the sky until we are really, really happy … we've got tens of thousands of data to trawl through to make those corrections."
Asked how significant a setback that could be, beck remained optimistic.
"We were the fourth most launched rocket in the world last year and this is something we always prepared for … every rocket has a failure at some point, so this is probably hurts our pride a lot more than anything.
"But this doesn't really affect our business or viability thereof in any way."
The primary payload for the launch was a 67-kg imaging satellite built by Canon Electronics, whose launch was arranged by Spaceflight Inc.
The satellite, capable of taking images with a resolution of 90cm, was intended to demonstrate the spacecraft's technologies as the company prepared mass production of similar satellites.
"This launch is very critical for Canon Electronics as we are launching a satellite where we have remarkably increased the ratio of in-house development of components compared to the previous launch," Nobutada Sako, group executive of the Satellite Systems Lab at Canon Electronics said in a pre-launch release.
The mission, named "Pics Or It Didn't Happen, also included five shoebox-sized Earth observation satellites, for San Francisco company Planet, designed to image Earth from above.
Planet's CEO Will Marshall announced the loss of the satellites on Twitter.
"While it's never the outcome that we hope for, the risk of launch failure is one Planet is always prepared for," the company said in a statement.
Rocket Lab said a problem occurred late in the flight during the second stage burn.
"An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab's launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron. The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available."
"We lost the flight late into the mission. I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today," Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted after the failure. "Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon."
Rocket Lab's launch came just three weeks after its most recent mission and was brought forward a day earlier than planned because of bad weather due later this week.
Since its inception, Rocket Lab has put 53 spacecraft into low Earth orbit on 12 separate missions, with this weekend's launch the third for Rocket Lab this year. The majority of the company's flights have been successful.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck was not immediately available for comment.