Rocket Lab executed its second orbital mission today, sending six small satellites and an experimental drag sail into orbit from an oceanside launch pad in New Zealand.
Rocket Lab has opened a second production facility in New Zealand (in addition to one in Southern California) this fall and recently announced a second launch site at Wallops Island, in Virginia.
The Electron arced toward the south from Mahia Peninsula, riding almost 22,680kg of thrust from the Rutherford engines during a two-and-a-half minute first stage burn.
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The rocket blasted off at 4.50pm, soon after a new launch window period of just over a week began at 4pm.
The Curie kick stage soared over Antarctica, then flew north over the Atlantic Ocean before igniting its main engine, which burns a "green" non-toxic liquid monopropellant. The rocket's Curie kickstage, a mini-third stage, fired up about an hour later to put the satellites in their intended orbits.
As CNBC noted, the Electron rocket is created to carry spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator on a faster timetable than larger competitors like SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, though it actually costs more than the latter. Prior to this, Rocket Lab conducted two test launches in May 2017 and January 21, 2018, with the second test flight carrying Planet's Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire Global.
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"The world is waking up to the new normal", the company's founder and chief executive, Peter Beck, said in a news release. SpaceFlight Now reported the next launch will be somewhere between december 10 and december 18, 2018, citing sources with payloads on the rocket.
On board was seven spacecraft, which mostly comprised of small satellites and one drag sail called NABEO, which is created to deorbit inactive, small satellites to help reduce space junk. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites".
Now the company intends to attempt a final commercial launch this year, before setting an ambitious goal of 16 launches for the year 2019.
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The company will try for one more commercial launch in 2018. Electron can has a maximum payload capacity of 225kg, to a nominal Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) at 500km.