Rocket Lab Military Satellite Launch Called Off Due To Transmitter Problem


Rocket Lab, a small satellite launch company, called off a scheduled flight on Sunday, March 24, due to an issue with an onboard video transmitter.

Rocket Lab Launch Rescheduled

The glitch occurred moments before the launch of the Electron booster from New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula. While the company said that the video transmitter issue will not interfere with the flight, the team behind the mission wants to make a further investigation.

"The team has identified a video transmitter 13dB down with low performance," said Rocket Lab in a Twitter post. "It's not an issue for flight, but we want to understand why, so we're waiving off for the day."

CEO Peter Beck, the founder of the United States-New Zeland launch company, commented that the Electron was technically good to go on Sunday night. However, he said he and his team did not know why the video transmitter's performance suddenly dropped, which made him feel uncomfortable.

In another update, Rocket Lab said that a new video transmitter will be installed in time for a second launch attempt that will take place on Tuesday, March 26. In New Zealand, the launch will take place on early morning Wednesday, March 27, local time. The company has a four-hour window to attempt another launch.

DARPA's R3D2 Satellite

The Electron launch on Sunday was meant to carry the prototype Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration or the R3D2 space antenna to Earth's low orbit on behalf of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

R3D2 is made of a thin Kapton membrane that packs tightly when in storage and then unfurls to about 2.3 meters in diameter once deployed. The test flight will monitor deployment dynamics, survivability, and radio frequency.

"This mission could help validate emerging concepts for a resilient sensor and data transport layer in low Earth orbit — a capability that does not exist today, but one which could revolutionize global communications by laying the groundwork for a space-based internet," stated Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office.

The R3D2 was originally scheduled to fly in late February, but the launch was moved to a later date because of the delayed arrival of the prototype satellite at Rocket Lab's facility in New Zeland. The R3D2 mission is Rocket Lab's first launch for 2019.

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