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  Rocket Lab's Electron composite launch vehicle

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Author Topic:   Rocket Lab's Electron composite launch vehicle
SkyMan1958
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posted 07-29-2014 07:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab Ltd. release
Rocket Lab USA poised to change the space industry

Rocket Lab announced today (July 29) its plan to revolutionize the global space industry with the creation of Electron, a lightweight, cost-effective rocket, making it easier for companies to launch small satellites into orbit.

Rocket Lab is building the world's first carbon-composite launch vehicle at its Auckland, New Zealand facility. The development of Electron will reduce the price of delivering a satellite into orbit. At a cost of less than $5 million dollars, this represents a drastic cost reduction compared to existing dedicated launch services.

The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite will also be reduced from years down to weeks through vertical integration with Rocket Lab's private launch facility. Rocket Lab has already garnered strong commercial demand with commitments for its first 30 launches.

Electron is 18m in length, 1m diameter and will weigh more than 10 tons. This will be the first vehicle of its class capable of delivering payloads up to 100kg into low Earth orbits (LEO).

Peter Beck founded the company in 2007 with the vision of eliminating the commercial barriers to space. Until now, rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and affordable. Rocket Lab will help to fulfill the deficit in launch systems by helping to break the cost barrier to commercial ventures and for the emerging satellite constellation markets.

"The innovation behind Electron will release the limitations on launching small satellites. Our vision at Rocket Lab is to make space commercially viable and more accessible than ever, doing what the Ford Model T did for consumer automobiles. This technology will really open space for business," said Mr. Beck, CEO, Rocket Lab.

"Along with benefits for commercial enterprises, cheaper and faster space access has the potential to lead to more accurate weather prediction, global high speed Internet access, as well as real-time monitoring of the impacts of human development," said Mr. Beck.

Rocket Lab's principal funder is top-tier Silicon Valley venture firm, Khosla Ventures, which has a long track record of backing breakthrough technologies that revolutionize industries.

Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, says it is exciting to see to the technology and innovation coming out of Rocket Lab.

"We are thrilled to be investing in the next chapter of Rocket Lab's development as they drive down the cost of launch vehicles to provide greater access to space," said Mr. Khosla.

"The company's technical innovations will truly transform the space industry."

TRS
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posted 06-30-2015 03:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for TRS   Click Here to Email TRS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New Zealand-based Rocket Labs is expected to announce their launch facility tomorrow.
Rocket Lab has applied for consents with the Canterbury Regional Council to build a launch complex on Bayleys Rd, Kaitorete Spit, near the township of Birdlings Flat.

...the facility would be able to launch 100 times a year at a cost of $US4.9m, which the company's chief executive Peter Beck said was much cheaper than the average $US130m launch cost.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-27-2016 08:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 Ready for Launches

Rocket Lab is pleased to announce the completion of the world's first private orbital launch complex, Launch Complex 1.

Located on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, Launch Complex 1 is set to enable the highest frequency of space launches in history. The facility will be the primary site for launches of Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150 kg payload to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.

New Zealand's remote island location and low volume of marine and air traffic create ideal conditions for frequent launch opportunities. In addition, launches from the site can access a uniquely wide range of orbital inclinations – from 39 degrees through sun-synchronous.

Facilities at Launch Complex 1 include a vehicle processing hangar where the vehicle will be prepared for launch as well as a 50 tonne launch platform. The platform will tilt forward to lift the rocket to a vertical position prior to launch.

Satellites launched from the complex will be used to provide services including optimized crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data and search and rescue services.

Rocket Lab has completed major milestones this year with the qualification of the 3D printed Rutherford engine, qualification of the second stage of the Electron rocket and the development of major infrastructure including remote tracking, test facilities and the launch site. The company is currently working through the qualification of the first stage of the Electron rocket and will look to begin the test flight phase once qualification and launch licensing are complete.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-16-2017 07:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Electron Arrives at Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1

Rocket Lab delivered its first Electron vehicle to Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 late last night (Feb. 15) marking the beginning of pre-flight checkouts.

The rocket was trucked to the Mahia Peninsula from Rocket Lab's Auckland facility.

"It's an important milestone for our team and for the space industry. In the past, it's been countries that go to space, not companies," said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab's CEO. "Through the innovative use of new technologies our team has created a launch vehicle designed for manufacture at scale. Our ultimate goal is to change our ability to access space."

"Since we commenced this project three years ago, our team has accomplished an incredible amount – the vehicle has gone through rigorous qualification and acceptance testing, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 has been completed and major tracking infrastructure has been installed in remote locations."

Over the coming weeks, a series of tests and checkouts will be conducted at the site before the rocket, named It's a Test, is signed-off to fly.

"We put it out to our team to name the vehicle," said Beck. "We wanted to acknowledge the intensive research and development Electron has undergone and that continues with these test flights."

The launch, which will be the first orbital launch attempt from New Zealand, is the first of three planned tests before Rocket Lab begins providing customers commercial satellite launches.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-14-2017 06:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Electron Test Launch Window Announced

Here we go! We are about to open a 10 day launch attempt window from May 22, 2017, for the first launch attempt of our Electron rocket.

The launch, titled "It's a Test," will take place from our private orbital launch site, Launch Complex 1, on the Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand.

This is a significant milestone for Rocket Lab and the space industry globally. We are about to enter the next phase of the Electron program, which will see the culmination of years of work from our dedicated team here at Rocket Lab.

"It's a Test" is all about gathering data. There are over 20,000 channels collected during the flight. We will use this information to learn and iterate.

As with any new rocket, there are a lot of factors that come together ahead of a test and we're not going to fly unless we're ready. It's highly possible we will scrub multiple attempts as we fine tune and wait for favorable weather conditions.

We're committed to making space accessible. Thanks for your interest and support — it means a lot to us.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-25-2017 07:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab successfully makes it to space

Rocket Lab broke new ground today [May 25] when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST.

Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST [12:20 a.m. EDT; 0420 GMT] from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from from a private launch site in the world.

"It has been an incredible day and I'm immensely proud of our talented team," said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab. "We're one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We've worked tirelessly to get to this point. We've developed everything in house, built the world's first private orbital launch range, and we've done it with a small team.

"It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn't quite reach orbit and we'll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business," says Beck.

Over the coming weeks, Rocket Lab's engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand will work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected during. The results will inform measures taken to optimize the vehicle.

"We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come. We're committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey. The applications doing this will open up are endless. Known applications include improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services," says Beck.

Today's launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year. Rocket Lab will target getting to orbit on the second test and look to maximize the payload the rocket can carry.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the United States, and 82 internationally.

Rocket Lab's commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-07-2017 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab Completes Post-Flight Analysis

Rocket Lab, an American-New Zealand aerospace company, has completed an internal review of data from its May 25 test flight of its Electron rocket. The review found the launch had to be terminated due to an independent contractor's ground equipment issue, rather than an issue with the rocket. Rocket Lab's investigation board has identified the root causes and corrective actions.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the primary body responsible for licensing the launch, has overseen Rocket Lab's comprehensive investigation and will review the findings.

Rocket Lab's engineers have spent the last two months working through an extensive fault tree analysis to ensure all factors that may have influenced the outcome of the launch were thoroughly evaluated. The investigation involved the review of over 25,000 channels of data collected during the flight in addition to extensive testing at Rocket Lab facilities in California and New Zealand.

Rocket Lab's investigation team determined the launch, named 'It's a Test', was terminated due to a data loss time out, which was caused by misconfiguration of telemetry equipment owned and operated by a third-party contractor who was supporting the launch from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1.

Four minutes into the flight, at an altitude of 224 km, the equipment lost contact with the rocket temporarily and, according to standard operating procedures, range safety officials terminated the flight. Data, including that from Rocket Lab's own telemetry equipment, confirmed the rocket was following a nominal trajectory and the vehicle was performing as planned at the time of termination.

"We have demonstrated Electron was following its nominal trajectory and was on course to reach orbit," said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. "While it was disappointing to see the flight terminated in essence due to an incorrect tick box, we can say we tested nearly everything, including the flight termination system. We were delighted with the amount of data we were able to collect during an exceptional first test launch.

Rocket Lab's telemetry systems provided data verifying Electron's capabilities and provided us with high confidence ahead of our second test flight. The call to terminate a launch would be tough for anyone, and we appreciated the professionalism of the flight safety officials involved."

The telemetry data loss that led to the termination of the flight has been directly linked to a key piece of equipment responsible for translating radio signals into data used by safety officials to track the vehicle performance. It was discovered a contractor failed to enable forward error correction on this third-party device causing extensive corruption of received position data. The failure was first indicated by the fact that Rocket Lab's own equipment did not suffer similar data loss during launch. Further confirmation of the cause was demonstrated when replaying raw radio-frequency data - recorded on launch day - through correctly configured equipment also resolved the problem.

The fix for the issue is simple and corrective procedures have been put in place to prevent a similar issue in future. No major changes to the Electron launch vehicle hardware have been required and the company has authorized the production of four additional launch vehicles as it prepares for commercial operations ahead of the test flight program. Rocket Lab's second Electron rocket, named 'Still Testing', is undergoing final checks and preparations ahead of being shipped to Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 shortly.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-25-2017 06:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab to fly Planet and Spire satellites on second test flight

Rocket Lab today announced it will fly payloads for Planet and Spire aboard its upcoming second test flight, 'Still Testing', from Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand. Rocket Lab's Electron orbital launch vehicle will carry two Earth-imaging Dove satellites for Planet and two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire for weather mapping and ship traffic tracking.

The flight is the second of three in Rocket Lab's Electron test program and follows the successful inaugural Electron test flight carried out on May 25, 2017.

Peter Beck, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, says carrying a test payload marks a significant milestone for the Electron program, enabling Rocket Lab to gather crucial data and test systems for the deployment stage of a mission.

"We're thrilled with Electron's performance in the first test flight and now we're eager to test the next crucial step – payload deployment. No major changes to the launch vehicle hardware have been required, the third-party error that meant we didn't make orbit has been corrected and we're focusing on the six Electron vehicles in production right now," says Beck.

"While we're still very much operating in a test phase and can likely expect a few scrubs during the second test flight attempt, we're incredibly excited about carrying Planet and Spire payloads on Electron. The data these companies gather has an increasingly significant role to play in how we understand our planet and better manage it," says Beck.

Mike Safyan, Senior Director of Launch at Planet, says "our companies have long shared an ethos of dreaming big and executing on that vision, so it's only fitting that Planet is among the first payloads to fly on a Rocket Lab Electron. The Electron will be a game changer in a traditionally difficult launch market. We are excited to quite literally be riding the leading edge with Rocket Lab."

Planet's largest-ever network of 190 satellites collects more imagery daily than any other commercial provider, creating a completely new information feed about our world. With this comprehensive and empirical dataset, Planet uses machine learning-driven analytics to create unique insights that deliver crucial market intelligence for businesses, governments, and NGOs.

"The ability to iterate quickly and execute on an incredibly high level is core to the success of both Rocket Lab and Spire. 'Still Testing' is a culmination of that work into a single event," said Peter Platzer, CEO of Spire, "and we're proud to be onboard for this inaugural deployment attempt."

Spire, the world's first commercial weather satellite constellation, adds two satellites to an existing constellation of Lemur-2 satellites that covers every location on earth over 100 times per day. The multi-sensor satellites gather global atmospheric measurements for advanced weather warnings and predictions and track global ship traffic for multiple commercial and government applications.

The Electron vehicle for the 'Still Testing' flight is expected to be trucked to Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand, in October 2017 with a launch window to open in the weeks following once vehicle checks are complete.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-29-2017 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab announces second test launch window

Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, will open a ten-day launch window from Friday December 8, 2017 NZT to carry out the company's second test launch of the Electron rocket. During this time a four-hour launch window will open daily from 2:30 p.m. NZT.

The test launch, titled 'Still Testing', will take place from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand. It follows on from the successful inaugural Electron test carried out on May 25, 2017.

Still Testing will be the first Rocket Lab launch to be live streamed to the public. A live video stream will be available approximately 15 minutes prior to a launch attempt.

The test launch attempt will only proceed if conditions are ideal for launch. Due to the nature of launching rockets, planned lift-offs are often subject to multiple and subsequent postponements, or scrubs, to allow for small, technical modifications and to wait for ideal weather conditions.

Peter Beck, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, says the test is an important next step in making space accessible and the team will be focusing on gathering more data to inform future launches.

"Electron's first test made history when it became the first orbital-class launch vehicle to reach space from a private launch facility. We analysed more than 25,000 channels of data from flight one, and we're eager to learn more from this test flight. This is the first test carrying customer payloads and we'll be monitoring everything closely as we attempt to reach orbit," he says.

"Once again, we're expecting to scrub multiple times as we wait for perfect conditions and make sure everything on the vehicle is performing as it should."

Still Testing will carry an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet and two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire for weather and ship tracking, enabling Rocket Lab to gather crucial data and test systems for the deployment stage of a mission.

Still Testing is the second of three test launches planned from Launch Complex 1 ahead of commercial operations, however if the vehicle performs nominally throughout the second test the commercial phase may be accelerated.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-08-2017 07:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Still Testing is on the pad at LC-1 and looking healthy. Ideal launch conditions open up Monday. Currently targeting no earlier than 2.30 pm Monday 11 December NZDT (Sunday, 8.30 pm EST/5.30 pm PST).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-10-2017 09:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Still Testing launch attempt scrubbed for the day. Weather factors and orbital traffic mean opportunities for launch today are tight, so we'll try again tomorrow.

Next Still Testing window opens 14:30, Tuesday 12 December NZDT (1:30 UTC). Updates on anticipated launch time within the four hour window to follow tomorrow.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-11-2017 10:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocketlab's Electron "Still Testing" rocket experienced a launch abort at engine ignition at 10:50 p.m. EST on Monday (Dec. 11). From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Still Testing scrubbed for the day while team reviews data. Updates on a new attempt to follow.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-12-2017 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Update from Rocket Lab via Twitter:
Analysis of yesterday's launch attempt is complete. Launch was aborted due to rising liquid oxygen temperatures - the result of a LOx chilldown bleed schedule not compatible with the warm conditions of the day. The fix is simple. Next attempt tomorrow!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-13-2017 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Still Testing launch attempt waived off for the day due to increasing upper level winds. Next attempt tomorrow, pending optimal weather!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-14-2017 09:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Today's launch attempt has been scrubbed following the identification of a power fault during ground checkouts. Team will work the issue tomorrow before a new target launch time is determined in coming days.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-16-2017 03:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Still Testing launch attempt is now targeted for early 2018. Yesterday's power fault has been resolved, but with only one day remaining in the launch window we've decided to preserve crew rest and come back for an attempt in the new year.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-11-2018 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
New year, new Still Testing launch window! A nine day launch window opens January 20 NZDT for our second Electron rocket. Target lift-off during this time will be between 14:30 -18:30 NZDT (1:30-5:30 UTC). We'll be live streaming.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-17-2018 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab successfully completes stage two flight acceptance test for third Electron vehicle

Rocket Lab has successfully completed a second stage flight acceptance test of the company's third Electron launch vehicle, currently scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2018.

The test marks the beginning of a busy flight acceptance test period for Rocket Lab, with five Electron vehicles currently in production across the company's US and New Zealand manufacturing facilities.

Rocket Lab Founder and CEO Peter Beck says the busy test program reflects the increased production and launch cadence anticipated for 2018.

"As we head into Electron's second test launch, our production facilities are ramping up production and and more Electron vehicles are rolling off the line to service a full 2018 manifest," he said. "We have a busy year ahead of both acceptance testing and launches as we work towards greatly increasing launch frequency in the coming 12 months."

The latest acceptance test took place ahead of Rocket Lab's second test launch window for the Still Testing vehicle, due to open on Friday 19 January at 17:30 PT/20:30 ET.

The launch will be live streamed on Rocket Lab's website, as well as Rocket Lab's Facebook page and YouTube channel. Live webcasts will be available approximately 15 minutes prior to a launch attempt.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-19-2018 11:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Rocket Lab on Twitter:
Scrubbed for the day.

The Still Testing launch window opens again tomorrow [Saturday, Jan. 20] 14:30 NZDT (17:30 PT/ 20:30 ET / 1:30 UTC). We'll provide updates on a new NET time when available.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-20-2018 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab successfully reaches orbit and deploys payloads

Rocket Lab has successfully reached orbit with the test flight of its second Electron orbital launch vehicle, Still Testing. Electron lifted-off at 14:43 NZDT from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand.

Following successful first and second stage burns, Electron reached orbit and deployed customer payloads at 8 minutes and 31 seconds after lift-off.

"Today marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space. We're thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after our first test launch," says Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck. "Our incredibly dedicated and talented team have worked tirelessly to develop, build and launch Electron. I'm immensely proud of what they have achieved today."

"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. 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," he says.

In the coming weeks Rocket Lab engineers will analyse the data from today's launch to inform future launches. Rocket Lab currently has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place in early 2018. At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history.

Still Testing was carrying a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship tracking company Spire.

Rocket Lab's commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-23-2018 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab successfully circularizes orbit with new Electron kick stage

Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, has successfully tested a previously unannounced kick stage on the Still Testing Electron launch vehicle, using it to circularize the orbits of the two Spire Lemur-2 CubeSats on board.

The kick stage was flown and tested on board the recent Still Testing flight that was successfully launched on 21 January 2018 NZDT from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The complex mission was a success, with the new apogee kick stage coasting in orbit for around 40 minutes before powering up and igniting Rocket Lab's new restartable liquid propulsion engine called Curie, then shutting down and deploying payloads. With the new kick stage Rocket Lab can execute multiple burns to place numerous payloads into different orbits.

Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck says the kick stage opens up significantly more orbital options, particularly for rideshare customers that have traditionally been limited to the primary payload's designated orbit.

"Until now many small satellite operators have had to compromise on optimal orbits in order to reach space at an accessible cost. The kick stage releases small satellites from the constricting parameters of primary payload orbits and enables them to full reach their potential, including faster deployment of small satellite constellations and better positioning for Earth imaging," Beck says.

The kick stage is designed for use on the Electron launch vehicle with a payload capacity of up to 150 kg and will be used to disperse CubeSat constellations faster and more accurately, enabling satellite data to be received and utilized sooner after launch.

Equipped with a precision pointing cold gas reaction control system, the kick stage also has its own avionics, power and communications systems.

As the proliferation of small satellites in low Earth orbit continues and the risk of collisions increases, the kick stage also offers a sustainable solution to reducing the amount of staging left to decay in orbit. The kick stage offers a much smaller system with its own green propulsion system to de-orbit the stage after mission completion, reducing the launch vehicle material left in space.

Robert Pearlman
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Rocket Lab release
It's Business Time at Rocket Lab

U.S. orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed its next launch will be the company's first fully commercial flight. Two Lemur-2 cubesats for launch customer Spire Global will be on board the upcoming launch, with the full manifest to be confirmed in coming weeks.

The flight's name was put to a vote on social media, with "It's Business Time" coming out as a clear fan favourite and a continuation of company's previous flight names, "It's a Test" and "Still Testing".

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck says "It's Business Time" highlights Rocket Lab's agile approach to responsive space. The launch has been manifested weeks out from launch, rather than the many months or years it can typically take under existing launch models.

"We came at the challenge of opening access to space from a new perspective. Building to tail numbers and tailoring a vehicle to the payload is a rigid and slow way of getting satellites on orbit. As the satellite industry continues to innovate at a break-neck pace and the demand for orbital infrastructure grows, we're there with a production line of Electron vehicles ready to go and a private launch site licensed for flight every 72 hours. Launch will no longer be the bottleneck that slows innovation in space," he says.

"We always set out to test a launch vehicle that was as close to production-ready as possible. To complete a test program so quickly and be flying commercial customers is a great feeling. It's business time," Mr Beck adds.

Rocket Lab's third Electron vehicle will be shipped to Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula in coming weeks, where final checkouts will be completed ahead of the "It's Business Time" launch.

This year Rocket Lab is increasing its launch cadence and scaling up production of the Electron launch vehicle to meet a growing manifest. The company aims to produce 100 Rutherford engines in 2018 from its three-acre headquarters and production facility in Huntington Beach, California. More than 30 engines have already been completed and are undergoing integration onto Electron vehicles.

Rocket Lab's first test launch, "It's a Test," was completed in May 2017, with the second test, "Still Testing," taking place in January 2018. This flight successfully reached orbit, deployed commercial customer payloads for Planet and Spire Global and circularized an orbit using a previously unannounced kick stage.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-03-2018 05:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rocket Lab release
Rocket Lab to launch first commercial mission this month

US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed it will open a 14-day launch window this month to conduct the company's first fully commercial launch. The mission, named 'It's Business Time', includes manifested payloads for launch customers Spire Global and GeoOptics Inc., built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

The 14-day 'It's Business Time' launch window will open on Friday April 20, 2018 NZT. During this time a four-hour launch window will open daily from 12:30 p.m. NZDT (00:30 UTC). 'It's Business Time' will launch from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. Licensed to launch every 72 hours, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 is the world's only private orbital launch facility.

Rocket Lab is the only private, dedicated small launch provider globally that has deployed satellites to orbit. 'It's Business Time' marks the fastest transition a private launch provider has made from test program to fully commercial flights. This mission follows just three months after Rocket Lab's January 21, 2018 launch "Still Testing", which successfully deployed an Earth-imaging satellite for Planet and circularized the orbit of two weather and AIS ship tracking satellites for Spire Global using Rocket Lab's in-house designed and built kick stage.

"It's Business Time represents the shift to responsive space. We always set out to create a vehicle and launch site that could offer the world's most frequent launch capability and we're achieving that in record time," said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck.

"Rocket Lab is the only small launch provider that has reached orbit and delivered on promises to open access to space for small satellites. We can have payloads on orbit every 72 hours and our rapidly expanding manifest shows this is frequency is critical for the small satellite market," he added.

Rocket Lab can achieve an unprecedented launch frequency thanks to a vertically integrated vehicle manufacturing process that enables Rocket Lab to roll an Electron vehicle off the production line every week. To meet a burgeoning 2018/19 launch manifest, Rocket Lab has rapidly scaled production of the Electron launch vehicle across its three-acre headquarters and production facility in Huntington Beach, California. The company will produce 100 3D printed Rutherford engines this year to support a monthly launch cadence by the end of 2018.

All times are CT (US)

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