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First Rocket Lab U.S. launch delayed to 2021

The first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the U.S. won’t take place until 2021 because of delays with its flight termination system.

WASHINGTON — The first launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from a site in the United States won’t take place until 2021 because of problems with the flight termination system NASA requires the rocket to use.

Rocket Lab had planned to conduct the first launch from its Launch Complex (LC) 2 at Wallops Island, Virginia, this year. The company completed the launch site in December 2019, stating at the time it anticipated performing the first launch there, of a U.S. military Space Test Program mission called STP-27RM, in the second quarter of 2020.

Preparations for that launch were slowed by the pandemic, but Rocket Lab said in the spring it anticipated a launch in the fall. The company performed a dress rehearsal of the launch in the spring, including a static-fire test of the rocket’s nine first-stage engines.

One reason for the delay, Rocket Lab said, was that it was waiting on NASA to certify the autonomous flight termination system (AFTS) that will be used on the rocket to provide range safety. NASA controls the launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility, where LC-2 is located. “There’s a very long certification process that, quite frankly, we probably underestimated how long it would take,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket…

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