NZ firm launches first commercial rocket

Federico Mansilla
Noviembre 13, 2018

Rocket Lab's creation has a black carbon composite fuselage with "Electron" emblazoned on the side in white lettering.

"We're thrilled to be leading the small satellite launch industry by reaching orbit a second time and deploying more payloads".

Now that the issue has been resolved, Rocket Lab has a backlog of launches in the next 18 months that CEO Peter Beck told CNBC is "around a $US3 ($4) billion pipeline", and it hopes to be launching once a week by 2020.

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.

Several of the six small satellite payloads on Rocket Lab's It's Business Time mission can be seen in this view from the booster's upper stage, with the Earth providing a brilliant backdrop in space.

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Sunday's mission, named "It's Business Time", included satellites belonging to Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies and the Irvine CubeSat Stem Program.

Six satellites onboard a rocket launched from the Mahia Peninsula have all been successfully deployed into orbit. A burn lasting almost two minutes aimed to circularize the kick stage's orbit at an altitude of around 499km before release of the mission's six satellite passengers. 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 first successful test of the Electron rocket came in January of this year. The Electron vehicle has a payload capacity of 150kg to 225kg to a 500km Sun-synchronous orbit and costs about $6 million per launch.

It carried seven payloads and was Rocket Lab's first fully commercial mission. The company's Electron rocket is created to launch spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator, especially for the premium small satellite part of the rocket market.

The company aims to produce 100 Rutherford engines in 2018 from its three-acre headquarters and production facility in Huntington Beach, California.

Now the company intends to attempt a final commercial launch this year, before setting an ambitious goal of 16 launches for the year 2019.

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