In this youtube video of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket launch we can see some debris breaking from the rocket. Besides the ice, there seems to be some sort of a black square-ish structure to the left of the rocket (see picture).

What is this debris?

Screen Shot from youtu.be/ZZRk4D5y_RA?t=59

  • $\begingroup$ @Jack I have just updated the video url (it's at 60 seconds) please check it again. $\endgroup$ – Amar Jul 26 '18 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ Oh! now I got it. I knew that the complete rocket is in black color but didn't notice the white color on the first and second stage because of ice. $\endgroup$ – Amar Jul 26 '18 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ I am voting to re-open this question after reading the answer by Hobbes here it appears this is not ice, and so is not a duplicate of What are the droplets/particles falling off rockets at launch? that also means the accapted answer is wrong. The related question which may influence votes to re-open (i.e. leave it closed as it already addressed there. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Jul 26 '18 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesJenkins The conclusion by Hobbes is for Ariane 5, not for Electron where I'm very confident that ice is the answer $\endgroup$ – Jack Jul 26 '18 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like a sheet of ice to me. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Aug 1 '18 at 13:06

This is ice breaking away from the vehicle due to vibration, acceleration and aerodynamic forces.

The Electron uses cryogenic liquid oxygen and kerosene as its oxidiser and propellant. The low temperature (approx −185 °C) in the tanks causes water vapour from the atmosphere to condense and freeze onto the body of the rocket. This can can be seen on the upper half of the first stage (where the oxygen tank is located) as a white covering which fractures and falls away on launch.

See this question for more details and examples.

Compare images of Electron before and after fuel loading where the frost build-up can be clearly seen and some falling ice is visible:

enter image description here enter image description here

Left: It's Business Time, Right: Still Testing. Image credit: Rocket Lab

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  • $\begingroup$ Why don't American and Ariane rockets seem to have the same problem? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jul 26 '18 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn you could ask that as a new question, then the answer can have pictures/comments/upvotes/etc too. edit: I asked it here space.stackexchange.com/questions/29709/… $\endgroup$ – Tom J Nowell Jul 26 '18 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn the question I linked gives examples of US rockets that show the same phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – Jack Jul 26 '18 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Jack if you take a look at OPs pictures, you might agree with me that it is not ice. Yes electron sheds ice on launch as well, but he seems to refer to something different. $\endgroup$ – DaGroove Aug 1 '18 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ @DaGroove If you have evidence to suggest that the debris is not ice, please feel free to post your own answer. However, in my opinion, it is clear in the video that it is sheets of ice breaking away from the vehicle. I believe your edit to the question does not retain the author's original intent since the OP was unaware of the ice. $\endgroup$ – Jack Aug 1 '18 at 10:57

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