Rocket Lab successfully conducts first commercial launch of Electron rocket


Beck estimates there are over 100 companies trying to catch up.

The mission is called "It's Business Time" and sees six satellites, plus a technology demonstrator, being sent to Low Earth Orbit.

That would be a pretty remarkable launch rate for a relatively new company.

Rocket Lab's New Zealand launch pad is located on the tip of the Mahia Peninsula, between Napier and Gisborne.

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The two-stage rocket, standing more than 55 feet (17 meters) tall, fired its nine kerosene-fuelled Rutherford main engines at 0350 GMT Sunday (10:50 p.m. EST Saturday) and climbed away from Launch Complex 1, Rocket Lab's privately-operated spaceport on Mahia Peninsula, located on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. The company plans to be ready to launch rockets weekly in 2020. The rocket builder reached orbit for the first time in January with its final test launch but saw this commercial attempt delayed due to a "motor control" issue with the rocket.

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.

"The ability to build and test multiple vehicles, while operating concurrent launch campaigns, strongly positions Rocket Lab as the industry leader opening access to space for small satellites", he said. But this time around, the countdown went off without a hitch, and the three-stage rocket rose into the southern sky to enter a pole-to-pole orbit. The Electron's Curie upper stage 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", according to a Rocket Lab statement. "The amount of effort that we've invested the last nine months, really, it's been just extraordinary". Electron can put payloads up to the size of a refrigerator into orbit. The 18 total launches planned so far gives Rocket Lab about $3 billion in revenue in the pipeline.