Rocket Lab Electron rocket reaches orbit with first successful commercial launch

13 November, 2018, 05:44 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • After failed attempts six months ago the company is having another go at launching its Electron rocket

Liftoff of the Electron rocket came at 4:50 p.m.

"You know, going to orbit once it's great, but doing it again and twice in one year and then moving into a launch cadence at the rate that we are is really transformational for the whole space industry".

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tweeted after launch "Perfect flight" and noted that "Orbital accuracy was exquisite".

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.

The payloads included two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire, created to monitor maritime traffic and weather; two Proxima satellites for Fleet Space Technologies, an Australian venture that's building a satellite constellation for Internet of Things applications; a Cicero satellite for GeoOptics, part of a constellation that provides data for weather and climate research; and Irvine01, an experimental satellite that was built by high-school students from Irvine, Calif., and will take low-resolution pictures of celestial objects.

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Rocket Lab's Electron rocket rises from its launch pad on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula. Curie also carried NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator, designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmbH, to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites and reduce space junk.

The catch for Rocket Lab's customers is that the cost of putting a payload into space on a rocket where the payload is the sole occupant is more expensive than using a SpaceX Falcon 9 and hitching a ride with other payloads. Prior to this, Rocket Lab conducted two test launches in May 2017 and January 21, 2018, with the second test flight carrying Planet's Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire Global. The two-stage version has a height of 17m and a diameter of 1.2m, and is powered by Rutherford engines.

Rocket Lab has launched its first rocket taking only commercial satellite cargo. But Rocket Lab has another launch scheduled for December, as well as 16 launches planned for 2019.

JAXA successfully launched its ultra-small SS-520 in February 2018, making it one of the first to make headway in launching a tiny rocket.

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