Rocket Lab launched seven payloads to orbit yesterday. The mission, named ‘It’s Business Time,’ marks Rocket Lab’s second successful orbital launch and deployment of customer satellites.
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifted-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula at 16:50 on 11 November NZDT (03:50 UTC). After first reaching orbit on Electron’s second stage, the Curie kick stage successfully separated and circularized its orbit before deploying six satellites for customers Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies and the Irvine CubeSat Stem Program. 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.
Rocket Lab will have high-frequency launches in 2019 thanks to production facilities that enable rapid mass Electron production, as well as a private launch complex licensed to launch up to 120 times per year.
The projected cost is less than US$5 million per launch. The 2018 launches were $5.7 million per rocket.
They launch small satellites and cube sats.
Small cheap 3D printed rockets
Electron is designed for a nominal payload of 150 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.
Rocket Lab is able to tailor the vehicle to specific mission requirements including a range of sun-synchronous altitudes in circular or elliptical orbits at inclinations between 39 and 98 degrees.
Electron’s payload fairing is designed to decouple payload integration from the main assembly. Rocket Lab’s standard process is to integrate payloads at the launch site in a traditional manner.
However, with the Rocket Lab “Plug-In Payload” module, the customer can choose to manage this process using their own preferred facilities and personnel. Environmentally controlled or sealed payload modules are transported back to Rocket Lab where integration with the Electron vehicle can occur in a matter of hours.
Rocket Lab’s novel approach eliminates the risk of cascading delays, and enables customers to have standby payloads ready to go.
An optional apogee kick stage that can execute multiple burns to place numerous payloads into different, circularized orbits. It opens up significantly more orbital options, particularly for rideshare customers that have traditionally been limited to the primary payload’s designated orbit. Powered by Rocket Lab’s 3D printed liquid propellant Curie engine capable of 120N of thrust and multiple burns.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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