HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. and AUCKLAND, New Zealand, May 25, 2017 /CNW/ -- Rocket Lab, an American-New Zealand aerospace company, broke new ground today when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST.
Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched 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 program, 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 test flight. 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.
Footage and imagery of the launch will be made available here:
About Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab's mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit. Since its creation in 2006 by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has delivered a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment.
In addition to New Zealand's first orbital launch site located on the Māhia Peninsula, the company has operations in both Auckland and Los Angeles.
Rocket Lab is a private company, with major investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures, Lockheed Martin and K1W1.
Electron is an entirely carbon-composite vehicle designed and manufactured in New Zealand that uses Rocket Lab's 3D-printed Rutherford engines for its main propulsion system. The Electron vehicle is designed to carry payloads, such as smaller satellites, to a low orbit. Owing to the modern design and construction of the Electron – rapid and scalable manufacture with high levels of automation is possible.
The Electron launch vehicle will allow constellations of small satellites to provide services like affordable internet from space and live-earth observation for activities such as environmental monitoring, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data and search and rescue services.
Electron is capable of delivering payloads of up to 150 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit – the target range for this high-growth constellation-satellite market. Electron is the most affordable small satellite launch vehicle. Customers signed to fly on Electron include NASA, Planet, Spire and Moon Express.
About Rutherford engine
Rutherford is a state of the art oxygen and kerosene pump fed engine specifically designed from scratch in New Zealand for Electron, using an entirely new propulsion cycle. Its unique high-performance electric propellant pumps reduce mass and replace hardware with software.
Rutherford is the first engine of its kind to use 3D printing for all primary components. These features are world firsts for a high performance liquid rocket engine with propellants that are fed by electric turbopumps. The production-focused design allows Electron launch vehicles to be built and satellites launched at an unprecedented frequency.
About Launch Complex 1
Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 is located on the tip of the Māhia Peninsula, between Napier and Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The complex is the first orbital launch site in New Zealand, and the first privately operated orbital launch site globally.
The remote location of Launch Complex 1, particularly its low volume of air and marine traffic, is a key factor in enabling unprecedented access to space. The geographic position of the site means it is possible to access a large range of orbital azimuths – satellites launched from Māhia can be delivered to a wide range of inclinations to provide services across many areas around the world.
SOURCE Rocket Lab