Rocket Lab successfully completes first commercial launch

Mindy Sparks
November 13, 2018

The launch marks the start of Rocket Lab's push towards putting a rocket into orbit each week.

It focuses on delivering small payloads, such as research satellites, into orbit at low costs.

On top of this, the company has a private launch complex stationed on the remote Māhia Peninsula in eastern New Zealand that is licensed to launch up to 120 times per year.

US -based aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab completed its first successful commercial launch on Saturday, sending seven spacecraft including "six tiny satellites and a drag sail demonstrator" into orbit aboard a relatively small Electron rocket designed primarily for smallsats and cubesats, Spaceflight Now reported.

The payloads for the launch today were: two satellites for Australian IoT company Fleet Space; two Spire Global Lemur-2 satellites; the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP) IRVINE01 educational CubeSat; NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmBH; and the Cicero-10 GeoOptics Inc. satellite, built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

Rocket Lab has opened a second production facility in New Zealand (in addition to one in Southern California) this fall and recently announced a second launch site at Wallops Island, in Virginia. The rocket's Curie kickstage, a mini-third stage, fired up about an hour later to put the satellites in their intended orbits.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck says while successfully reaching orbit and deploying payloads this year was a significant milestone for the company, transitioning from this to regular, streamlined production and launch operations cements Rocket Lab's position as leader in the small launch industry. The two-stage version has a height of 17m and a diameter of 1.2m, and is powered by Rutherford engines.

On the live webcast of the launch, Rocket Lab touted the last-minute adds to its manifest as an indication of its ability to get to space quickly. Electron can has a maximum payload capacity of 225kg, to a nominal Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) at 500km. The plan, according to Beck, is to try one launch per month to start in 2019, then to move to one launch every two weeks.

As CNBC noted, the Electron rocket is created to carry spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator on a faster timetable than larger competitors like SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, though it actually costs more than the latter. The 18 total launches planned so far gives Rocket Lab about $3 billion in revenue in the pipeline.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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