Tag: Rocket Lab

US Space Startup Rocket Lab Sets New Date For First Commercial Launch

US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab has scheduled new dates for its first commercial rocket launch — a mission dubbed “It’s Business Time.”

The company plans to launch its small rocket, the Electron, sometime between June 23rd and July 6th.

The rocket will take off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launchpad and carry five small satellites to orbit for customers, kicking off a busy year of commercial operations for the launch provider.

Rocket Lab originally hoped to do this mission back in April, but the company had to postpone after it noticed some strange behavior with the rocket.

After propping up the Electron on the launchpad and filling it with fuel, the engineering team found that a critical motor responsible for controlling the pumps inside the engines was acting funny.

So Rocket Lab decided to stand down to figure out what was causing the issue. “It’s been a really tough one to determine the root cause,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tells The Verge. “It wasn’t particularly obvious.




After a few months, Beck says the company has it figured out and made a few changes to the vehicle to ensure that motor works properly.

During the stand down, Rocket Lab decided to add a couple more satellites to the manifest for It’s Business Time.

Originally this mission was only going to send up two small Lemur-2 satellites made by Spire Global, as well as another probe made by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

Now, it’ll also include a research satellite built by students and a special test satellite that will demonstrate a flat, reflective sail.

The tech will help the probe get dragged down to Earth faster, helping clear satellites from space when they’re done with their missions.

This will be the third launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle. The company pulled off two successful test launches — one in May of last year and one in January — before deciding to move to commercial flights.

During the first test launch, the rocket made it to space, but it didn’t reach orbit due to a glitch in communications equipment on the ground.

The second test, however, did achieve orbit and deposited three satellites as well as a disco-ball-like sphere made by Beck himself.

Originally, Rocket Lab had planned to do a third test flight, but it decided that it had gathered enough data with its two tests to start business operations.

Once this commercial flight gets off the ground, Beck maintains that Rocket Lab has a full couple of years ahead.

There’s no space available in 2018, and we’re putting more flights on in 2019 to allow for more space,” says Beck.

The next flight after It’s Business Time will be one for NASA, sending up 11 standardized small satellites called CubeSats.

Rocket Lab’s goal is to be a dedicated launcher of small satellites. That’s why its primary rocket isn’t very big.

The Electron stands at just 55 feet tall and is capable of putting between 330 and 500 pounds of cargo into low Earth orbit.

In comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is 230 feet tall and can put 50,000 pounds into the same orbit.

Rocket Lab’s idea is to capitalize on the small satellite revolution, in which manufacturers are making spacecraft smaller and faster than ever before.

To that end, Rocket Lab also hopes to be able to get satellites into orbit as quickly as possible, eventually getting to a point where the company can launch every 72 hours.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Rocket Lab’s Electron Is Making Space Open For Business (Feat. CEO Peter Beck)

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Rocket Lab is a private space company out of New Zealand founded by rocket engineer Peter Beck. Their goal is to open up space and satellite technology for business by building cheap, disposable rockets that are powerful and flexible.

Their Electron rocket is tiny – less than 1/3 the size of the Falcon 9 – but can launch 62% of payloads into space for only $5 million.

To do this, they have pioneered new technologies like the 3D printed Rutherford engine (named after Ernest Rutherford) that is powered by a battery pack, and completely carbon-fiber construction.

 

The Electron rocket is perfect for micro satellites and cube satellites, with a payload capacity of up to 225 kilograms.

Their first launch of the Electron was called It’s a Test, which achieved orbit, but had communication issues and had to be destroyed.

Their second launch was called Still Testing, which was a complete success, launching two commercial payloads and the Humanity Star satellite.

They also have built their own launch facility on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand, which is the first privately owned launch facility in the world and the first in the southern hemisphere.

Their first commercial flight, called It’s Business Time is scheduled to launch in late Spring/early Summer 2018.

Rocket Lab Has Reached The Orbit For The First Time

This weekend, US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab successfully launched its second Electron rocket for a crucial flight test — and reached orbit for the first time.

The Electron took off from the company’s New Zealand launch facility at 2:43PM local time on Sunday (or 8:43PM ET on Saturday), and about eight and a half minutes later, the rocket deployed three small commercial satellites.

It marks the first time the Electron has completed a full mission, and that may mean Rocket Lab is ready to start commercial flights of the vehicle.




Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is almost unprecedented,” Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, said in a statement.

Rocket Lab was founded on the principal of opening access to space to better understand our planet and improve life on it. Today we took a significant step towards that.

Rocket Lab’s big ambition is to be a dedicated launcher of small satellites. That’s why the company’s Electron rocket isn’t very big itself.

It stands at just over 55 feet tall, a slight stature compared to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which is a lofty 180 feet tall. And the Electron’s capacity is limited, only capable of getting between 330 and 500 pounds to lower Earth orbit.

For comparison, the Falcon 9 can get around 50,000 pounds to a similar orbit.

But demand for this type of small rocket has been high. Operators of tiny satellites don’t have many options to get to space, and typically have to hitch rides on launches of much bigger probes.

That’s not always ideal, since it means waiting for someone else launch and possibly going to a less-than-desirable orbit.

But with a launcher like the Electron, small satellite operators can potentially pay for an entire rocket ride for their hardware, and Rocket Lab says individual flights may start as low as $4.9 million.

The company says it already has a full manifest of customers waiting for trips.

Before customers can start flying, Rocket Lab needed to show that the Electron could do its job, and getting to orbit was a key goal of this test.

During the first flight test of the vehicle, appropriately called “It’s a Test,” the Electron made it to space but failed to make it to orbit.

Some communications equipment on the ground lost contact with the rocket during flight, causing the vehicle to abort its mission. Rocket Lab said that if the mishap hadn’t occurred, the Electron would have made it to orbit.

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Pass it on: New Scientist