Rocket Lab launches 40th mission, first re-flown Rutherford engine

Rocket Lab’s ‘We Love the Nightlife’ mission lifted off at 11:45 a.m. NZST (23:45 UTC), bringing the Acadia satellite to orbit and advancing its flight-proven capabilities. The mission took place from Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, utilizing Pad 1B.

Acadia is Capella Space’s next-generation Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth-imaging satellite and the first of four of their next-gen SAR satellites to launch in the coming months. The satellite was launched into a 53-degree orbital inclination and will orbit approximately 640 km above the Earth.

Electron was originally meant to launch on July 30th but shut down its engines shortly after ignition due to low igniter pressure on one of the Rutherford engines. Rocket Lab then attempted another launch on August 5th but stood down with less than 30 minutes left in the countdown due to out-of-family sensor data.

Rocket Lab then moved forward and decided to switch out Electron’s first stage, and with that came the opportunity for another first stage recovery and the first reflown Rutherford first stage engine.

The 9 Rutherford engines on Electron, including the re-used engine at the bottom of the image (Credit Rocket Lab)

This specific Rutherford first flew on Electron’s ‘There and Back Again’ mission in May 2022. Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck said they had “perfect performance from the reused engine and the stage.”

After re-entering the atmosphere from space, a drogue chute was deployed from the first stage to stabilize the booster, followed by the main parachute deployment. Electron then splashed down in the Pacific Ocean nineteen and a half minutes following launch, followed by the recovery crew moving into position to pick up the first stage booster from the ocean.

This mission brings Rocket Lab much closer to a full re-use of the first-stage booster. Rocket Lab currently plans for the first re-use of the first stage in 2024.

Disclosure: Richard Angle is not an RKLB shareholder.

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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