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An Electron rocket on the launch pad in New Zealand. Photo: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab is working to get to the root of an issue that caused the failure of one of its Electron rockets over the weekend.

Why it matters: This is Rocket Lab's second rocket failure in about a year, and it comes as the company is also working to go public via a SPAC.

Catch up quick: The Electron launch appeared to go smoothly upon liftoff and through the separation of the second stage Saturday.

  • Not long after the second stage ignited, however, the rocket appeared to spin out of control. Rocket Lab confirmed the failure, which destroyed two BlackSky imaging satellites.
  • "Preliminary data reviews suggest an engine computer detected an issue shortly after stage 2 engine ignition, causing the computer to command a safe shutdown as it is designed to do," Rocket Lab said in a statement Monday.
  • "The behavior had not been observed previously during Rocket Lab’s extensive ground testing operations, which include multiple engine hot fires and full mission duration stage tests prior to flight."

The impact: The company is now working on reviewing what went wrong, with plans to have the report complete in the coming weeks.

  • Rocket Lab and the company acquiring it for the SPAC "continue to work towards the completion of the transaction as planned," according to a Rocket Lab spokesperson.
  • But it's still possible this failure could have an impact on the company's plans to go public, particularly if it delays future launches significantly.
  • "It is conceivable that this anomaly might contribute to a delay in the closing of the merger — due to some uncertainty introduced by an anomaly investigation," the Secure World Foundation's Ian Christensen told Axios via email.

A bright spot: The company did manage to recover the first stage of its rocket, which splashed down in the ocean after launch as part of a reusability test.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storm lashes Southeast

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes," per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."