Space company Rocket Lab, a manufacturer and launcher of small rockets carrying even smaller satellites into orbit, announced back in March that it will go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Vector Acquisition Corporation (VACQ) sometime in the second quarter of 2021 (i.e., before June 30). In so doing, it promised to give investors a chance to own a piece of an "end-to-end space company with an established track record, uniquely positioned to extend its lead across a launch, space systems and space applications market forecast to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2030."

But this "track record" just got a little less "established" -- and Rocket Lab's "lead" in space launch systems has suffered a setback.

Horizontal Electron rocket.

Image source: Rocket Lab.

Launching its 20th Electron rocket out of Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand at 7:11 a.m. EDT Saturday, Rocket Lab suffered a launch failure when the rocket's second stage abruptly shut down just seconds after ignition, causing a "loss of the mission," according to a Rocket Lab statement.

Rocket Lab was conducting the first of four dedicated missions being performed for launch services company Spaceflight. In Saturday's mission, the Electron rocket was carrying two satellites owned by geospatial intelligence company BlackSky -- itself an upcoming SPAC IPO through a planned combination with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp (SFTW).

This was Rocket Lab's third launch failure out of 20 launches to date.

On a brighter note, Rocket Lab is working to recover the first stage rocket booster, which was not affected by the second stage failure, after the booster splashed down in the ocean after launch. Rocket Lab is exploring reuse of its boosters in an effort to reduce costs and accelerate its launch cadence.