Smoking battery at Rocket Lab facility

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Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab is investigating why one of the rocket batteries for its Electron rocket started smoking over the weekend.

Rocket Lab is investigating what caused a rocket battery to overheat and start smoking at its manufacturing facility near Auckland Airport on Sunday night. Rocket Lab spokeswoman Morgan Bailey said fire emergency services were called as a precaution to its site in Mangere at 7pm on Sunday after a battery on an Electron rocket overheated and started smoking.

She said she did not know what action was being made on the rocket when the battery overheated, but the company was looking into it.

No one was hurt in the incident.

They are clearly being tight-lipped about this, partly because of the bad press it might cause and partly because they don’t wish to reveal proprietary information.

Note that this article has me rethinking Rocket Lab as an American company. Based on this article their operations and manufacturing are both in New Zealand. It seems that even if the company was conceived and officially incorporated in the U.S., the rocket is a New Zealand born baby.


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  • wayne

    You bring up an interesting point, ref: a functional definition of an “American” company.
    I think it might be best to pick a definition, footnote it, and stick with it just to be consistent across time.
    (Many of our large, home-grown, name-brand Corporations, aren’t even based in the USA anymore, and/but, that’s an artifact of our Tax Code.)
    They undoubtedly wanted ready access to Capital and the Rule of Law, under our jurisdiction, while physically operating elsewhere in part.
    -It’s more of an aspirational trans-national or multi-national, type of company.

  • Edward

    Here is a video that says Electron uses lithium polymer batteries. It gives an overview of the company and rocket, for those who are unfamiliar with them. (8 minutes)

    The video was made before Electron’s successful orbital flight.

    Wikipedia’s entry for Rocket Lab lists it as “a U.S. aerospace manufacturer with a wholly owned New Zealand subsidiary,” but the entry for the Electron rocket gives a country of origin as New Zealand. I don’t know if that helps you, but there it is. In addition, the entry has Moon Express’s MX-1 moon lander listed as scheduled for May of this year.

  • Andrew_W

    The man behind Rocket Lab is Peter Beck, he’s the driving force and American involvement only happened after the Rutherford engine had been successfully test fired, As I understand things his reasons for seeking US involvement were for financial reasons and to facilitate easier certification for various payloads.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Might also have to do with ITAR.
    As for Lithium polymer batteries a quick search on Youtube for “LiPo failures” will show heaps of videos.
    They are used in R/C model airplanes and need to be treated with utmost respect and care. Best to charge them in a fire and explosion proof kevlar bag. I wouldn’t do it in place in the vehicle.

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