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Rocket Lab loses two satellites but still aims to recover a rocket

The first stage of the company's Electron rocket may fly again one day, but its payload is lost.

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket awaits liftoff in New Zealand.
Rocket Lab

New Zealand and US-based space startup Rocket Lab lost a pair of satellites as the second stage of one of its Electron rockets failed to make it to orbit Saturday.

After a successful liftoff from the company's New Zealand launch facility, something went wrong after the first stage booster separated from the smaller second stage carrying two satellites for Earth imaging company BlackSky. A live feed from the second stage showed that after it separated, it appeared to go into an uncontrolled tumble.

Commentators on the company's livestream reported that telemetry from the second stage had been lost and later the Rocket Lab Twitter feed confirmed the mission failure.

"An issue was experienced during today's launch, resulting in the loss of the mission," the company tweeted. "We are deeply sorry to our launch customers BlackSky and Spaceflight. The issue occurred shortly after stage two ignition."

The company had highlighted another part of the mission, which would be its second attempt at recovery of an Electron first stage. Rocket Lab reported that the booster made a successful parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific and a specially modified ship was en route to try to recover it.

This is the third failure out of 20 Rocket Lab launches and the second loss of mission in the past year.

"On one of our toughest days, our team operated with professionalism and worked swiftly to ensure the anomaly was managed safely," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. "Our team is resilient, and our top priority remains to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers. We will learn from this, and we'll be back on the pad again."

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