RS1, the rocket from the Californian-based ABL company, failed at reaching orbit during its maiden launch. The rocket suffered a significant failure ending the launch prematurely, with RS1 falling back on the launch pad and damaging the Ground Support Equipment.
“This is not the outcome we were hoping for today, but one that we prepared for. We’ll revert with additional information when available. Thanks to all for the support.”ABL via Twitter
Line of events
ABL’s attempt at launching RS1 began several months ago; the first launch campaign started in November with a series of scrubs due to several youth issues.
A second window opened the following month with just one attempt, which took place on December 8, 2022. It ended up with a scrub at T-6 min caused by electronic interferences in the Avionics Subsystem of the rocket. The company stated in a tweet that the issue never presented in dry tests but only during live propellant ops indicating a thermomechanical or thermoelectrical root.
The third and final window opened on January 9, 2023, with a successful Wet Dress Rehearsal leading to the January 11 attempt. The countdown procedure developed almost flawlessly, and the rocket took off from Pacific Spaceport Complex (PSC) in Kodiak, Alaska.
At an unspecified altitude, all 9 E2 engines powering the first stage shut down simultaneously, and the vehicle fell back on the pad, seriously damaging the pad and the so-called GS0 equipment.
The cause of the issue is yet undetermined; ABL started an internal investigation to ensure a safe return to flight.
After liftoff, RS1 experienced an anomaly and shut down prematurely. The team is working through our anomaly response procedures in coordination with PSCA and the FAA.— ABL (@ablspacesystems) January 10, 2023
The payloads onboard
Although a test mission, RS1 carried two CubeSats inside its payload bay: VariSat-1A and VariSat-1B.
The satellites were developed by VariSat LLC and designed to work inside a constellation of three – VariSat-1C is already in orbit after a successful launch with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – to develop new technologies to support HF marine data communications.
A series of failures
The last two days were difficult for companies trying to send hardware to space.
On January 9, Virgin Orbit failed its attempt to launch to orbit the first mission to space from United Kindom and European soil. The issue was related to the second-stage engine shutting down prematurely in that case.
Extending the time span to a month, we reach Vega C failure. It’s hard to be a space enthusiast these days!