Rocket Lab launches first rocket carrying only commercial satellites from Mahia Peninsula

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 13, 2018

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

"Perfect flight", Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a tweet after the launch.

The start-up launched a 56 foot (17-metre) rocket from the Mahia Peninsula in the North Island, New Zealand, as part of a new nanotechnology space race.

USA and New Zealand spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully completed its first commercial launch called "It's Business Time" on Sunday, sending seven payloads to orbit. For It's Business Time, Rocket Lab launched two cubesats for Fleet Space Systems, two Lemur-2 cubesats for Spire Global, and one satellite each for Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and Irvine Cubesat STEM Program.

A Rocket Lab Electron booster lifts off from the Mahia Peninsula on 10 Nov, 2018, carrying six small satellites and a technology demonstrator for the company's "It's Business Time", mission. The rocket's Curie kickstage, a mini-third stage, fired up about an hour later to put the satellites in their intended orbits.

There was also a NABEO drag sail attached to the kickstage, built by Germany's High Performance Space Structure Systems to test a technique for deorbiting small satellites more efficiently at the end of their operating life.

Rocket Lab succeeded this weekend in moving from a company testing its rocket to one that has truly begun commercial operations. The two-stage version has a height of 17m and a diameter of 1.2m, and is powered by Rutherford engines.

Rocket Lab, which is headquartered in California but has a strong New Zealand presence, is pushing out on the frontier of space technology by using carbon-composite materials for its rocket casings, and by taking advantage of 3-D printing to manufacture its electric-pump-fed Rutherford rocket engines. 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. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites". But Rocket Lab has another launch scheduled for December, as well as 16 launches planned for 2019. The Electron vehicle has a payload capacity of 150kg to 225kg to a 500km Sun-synchronous orbit and costs about $6 million per launch.

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