Rocket Lab Aims for the Moon with Photon Satellite Platform

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 22, 2019

Rocket Lab had kicked off International Astronautical Congress with news which it will start offering the tiny satellite delivery services to the orbits beyond lower Earth orbit and there it is operating now and the service includes delivering the payloads of all the way to Moon. Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said in a press release announcing the news that this is in response to additional inbound interest in reaching these orbits, from both government and private sector clients.

According to Rocket Lab, this is because it has been using the lessons learned from its Electron orbital launches to make improvements to its 3D-printed Curie propulsion system, which now uses an improved bi-propellant and the Electron rocket's composite tanks. This allowed the company to deliver a payload to an altitude of 1,000 km (600 mi) on the ninth Electron launch. It'll use a combination of Electron rockets, the Photon payload platform and a "dedicated bulk maneuver stage" to provide the new capabilities as soon as the fourth quarter of 2020.

There were many potential exploration instruments and satellites waiting for launch to deeper space, he said. "In the same way we opened access to LEO for smallsats, Rocket Lab is poised to become the dedicated ride to the Moon and beyond for small satellites". The company also expects to start serving their customers with their newly combined and longer range spacecraft as early as Q4 2020.

The Electron is capable of sending payloads of 110 kilograms into orbit.

· Payload deorbiting upon mission completion. Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab has delivered 40 satellites to orbit on the Electron launch vehicle, enabling operations in space debris mitigation, Earth observation, ship and airplane tracking, and radio communications.

Rocket Lab's most recent mission successfully demonstrated upgrades to its Kick Stage, "a nimble but powerful extra stage" on Electron created to deploy satellites to highly precise orbits before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up without a trace.

Rocket Lab's Photon satellite vehicle. Photon is a complete spacecraft bus solution that can be tailored for a range of missions.

Such missions would launch from Rocket Lab's Mahia site and its second launch site now under construction on Wallops Island in Virginia, US. Together Electron and Photon offer an all-inclusive spacecraft build and launch service for Rocket Lab customers.

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