The US space flight company Rocket Lab is officially open for business and has scheduled its first commercial launch later this month. The company will launch its small Electron rocket with payloads from two on-board satellite operators, just three months after completing a second test flight of the vehicle. The next mission will initiate client operations for Rocket Lab, which claims to have a manifesto occupied for this year and the next.
After four years of developing the electron, Rocket Lab flew the vehicle for the first time in May 2017 outside the company's own private launch site in New Zealand. That test flight, appropriately called "It's a test", arrived in space, although the rocket did not reach orbit, due to a failure in the communication equipment on the ground. However, Rocket Lab was able to solve the problem and performed a second test flight of the electron in January on a mission called "Still Testing". On that occasion, the vehicle made reach the orbit and even deployed four satellites, including a secret disco ball probe made by Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.
Now, Rocket Lab has considered that the electron is ready for commercial flights. (Originally, the company had planned to make three test flights, but then decided that two were sufficient). This next release is scheduled to go up during a 14-day launch window that opens on April 20 at 12:30 PM New Zealand time (or 7:30 PM ET the day before for those on the east coast). Two satellite companies, Spire Global and GeoOptics Inc., will have small spacecraft aboard the rocket. And once again, Rocket Lab has given this mission a very clear title: "It's business time."
The launch will put Rocket Lab one step closer to its goal of becoming a dedicated small satellite launcher. The company's 55-foot-high Electron rocket is capable of placing between 330 and 500 pounds in low Earth orbit, which is a small charge compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9 that can send up to 50,000 pounds to the same part of space . However, Rocket Lab does not seek to launch large bus satellites such as SpaceX. Instead, he wants to capitalize on the revolution of the small satellites by sending a handful of tiny spaceships at once.
And that has already proven to be an attractive option for small satellite operators, who generally have to resort to rocket travel. to get your hardware in space. Normally, small spacecraft have to get caught up in much larger satellite launches if there is extra space. But with a small rocket like the electron, miniature satellites can get a flight for themselves. So far, Rocket Lab says Electron's flights are basically reserved for 2018 and 2019.
Meanwhile, the company aims to increase the frequency of its launches in the coming years. Rocket Lab says its launch facility in New Zealand is licensed to launch every 72 hours, so the electron could technically fly every three days if necessary. Rocket Lab is not there yet, but the company says it has a manufacturing process that will eventually allow an electron to be built every week. In addition, it expects to reach one launch per month by the end of 2018.
"It's business time represents the change to receptive space," Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a statement. "We always set out to create a vehicle and a launch site that could offer the most frequent launch capability in the world and we are achieving that in record time."
Rocket Lab has also become accustomed to broadcast live their releases, too. The video will be available about 15 minutes before the flight on the company's website. Rocket Lab also provides updates on your Twitter account about launch times, so stay tuned to see when this next electron comes up.