Tech glitch caused NZ rocket's launch failure - report

3:14 pm on 8 August 2017

A review of the failed maiden flight of a New Zealand-built rocket shows a computer glitch and not a fault with the rocket forced the test to be aborted.

Rocket Lab rocket

Rocket Lab rocket Photo: Twitter / @RocketLabUSA

Rocket Lab's test flight in May was ended four minutes into the flight, with the rocket at a height of 224km, when engineers briefly lost contact with the rocket, which forced them to terminate the flight.

"We have demonstrated Electron was following its nominal trajectory and was on course to reach orbit," Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said.

The company has posted a debrief on the first test flight on its website.

Mr Beck said equipment owned and operated by a contractor was responsible, and engineers had no option but to end the flight because they did not know where the rocket might land.

"While it was disappointing to see the flight terminated in essence due to an incorrect tick box, we can say we tested nearly everything, including the flight termination system," he said.

The fault had been fixed and procedures put in place to prevent a recurrence.

Final checks were being done on the second Electron test rocket, which will be shipped to the Mahia launch site soon, Mr Beck said.

Four additional launch vehicles have been ordered as the company prepares for commercial operations.