Rocket Lab Delays Planned Rocket Launch for More Ground Tests

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket stands ready for launch at the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, but it will have to wait a few more days to fly while the company conducts additional ground tests.
Rocket Lab's Electron rocket stands ready for launch at the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, but it will have to wait a few more days to fly while the company conducts additional ground tests. (Image credit: Rocket Lab)

Rocket Lab's quest to test out reusable rocket features will need to wait a little longer. The California-based company announced today (Nov. 29) that it needs to hold off on its planned launch attempt for now to do more testing.

"We're standing down from today's launch attempt to conduct further tests on ground systems," Rocket Lab (opens in new tab) said in a tweet. "We'll update with a new target launch date soon. The window remains open until 12 December."

The company's two-stage Electron booster (opens in new tab) was supposed to send seven satellites into Earth orbit from New Zealand today at 3:20 a.m. EST (9:20 p.m. local time; 0820 GMT). Also on board the rocket is a Japanese spacecraft that is expected to create artificial meteor showers. However, for now the payloads are simply on hold for a future launch date in December.

Related: Space Launch Calendar 2019: Sky Events, Missions & More (opens in new tab)

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Reusability will also play a big role in this mission as Rocket Lab aims for lower launch costs in the future. Electron will include sensors to record its telemetry (flight information) to help Rocket Lab snatch the rocket out of mid-air in future missions, using a helicopter (opens in new tab).

SpaceX (opens in new tab) and Blue Origin (opens in new tab) are two other rocket companies that use reusable rockets, by bringing down their boosters for a vertical touchdown (with the help of engines that slow their descent). Electron, which is a smaller rocket designed to send smaller satellites into space, cannot do the same thing without extensive modifications (opens in new tab), Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has said.

The company spends about 70% of its money and time on every Electron build working on the rocket's first stage, so if Rocket Lab can make those reusable it will allow the company to push out Electrons much faster, Beck told Space.com in September (opens in new tab).

The upcoming launch will be Rocket Lab's 10th mission, which the company nicknames "Running Out of Fingers."

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace