Rocket Labs successfully launches mostly 3D printed rocket into space and could herald price breakthrough to $5 million per launch

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

Rocket Lab has said they will charge $5 million for each rocket. The SpaceX Falcon 9 has a launch cost of $57 million.

Rocket Lab will launch up to 225 kilograms. The Falcon 9 can launch 22800 kilograms to low earth orbit.

Rocket lab 3D prints almost all of parts. They use carbon composite materials for many parts which are lighter. Rocket labs uses advanced batteries to enable electric turbopumps.

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 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.

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