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article imageRocket Lab makes history with 1st successful commercial launch

By Karen Graham     Jan 21, 2018 in Technology
On Sunday, California-based startup Rocket Lab made history again, launching its Electron Rocket from its launch facility on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand, carrying a payload of commercial satellites that were successfully put into Earth orbit.
New Zealand officially joined the ranks of commercial space-faring nations on Sunday and made history at the same time. The launch of Rocket Lab's Electron Rocket will go down as the first successful commercial space launch in the southern hemisphere.
At 2:43 p.m. local time (1:43 GMT), the composite-bodied, two-stage rocket named "Still Testing" lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 located on the tip of the Māhia Peninsula on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, carrying a payload of mini-satellites, which it successfully delivered into low Earth orbit.
Only eight-and-a-half minutes later, the "still Testing" deployed a payload of three small commercial satellites, weighing about 150 kilograms (331 pounds) total. The payload included a Dove Earth-imaging and two Spire weather satellites. Spire Global, a satellite-powered data company, noted the launch was a "huge win for Rocket Lab and sets a new bar for launch by reaching orbit on just their second test."
 Still Testing  vertical on launch pad Jan. 19  2018
"Still Testing" vertical on launch pad Jan. 19, 2018'
Rocket Lab
“Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is almost unprecedented,” Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, said in a statement. “Rocket Lab was founded on the principle of opening access to space to better understand our planet and improve life on it. Today we took a significant step towards that.”
Rocket Lab's first launch
When the small company decided on building a launch facility in New Zealand last year, politicians had to draw up new space laws and regulations and set up a small space agency, another historic move for a country that had never had a space program.
On May 25, 2017, Rocket Lab's Electron rocket, "It's a Test" successfully launched and reached space, but the flight suffered from a communications malfunction on the ground that caused a loss of telemetry. This required the range safety officer to order the rocket to self-destruct.
Meet  it s a Test   Rocket Lab s Electron rocket.
Meet "it's a Test," Rocket Lab's Electron rocket.
Founded by Peter Beck, a citizen of New Zealand, the Rocket Lab's journey into the commercial space market began 11 years ago. Rocket Lab had their first foray into space three years ago with the launch of the Atea-1 suborbital sounding rocket. Its first and only flight occurred on November 20, 2009, from Great Mercury Island near the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.
The Atea-1 launch led to the company being awarded an Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) contract with the U.S. federal government. This opened the door to formally initiating a feasibility study into low-cost launcher systems for nanosatellites. The biggest issue that turned up was finding a suitable launch site. That is why the company developed its dedicated launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula.
As with launch locations in the United States  Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 is located on a remote ar...
As with launch locations in the United States, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 is located on a remote area of land within New Zealand – providing increased safety and a natural barrier to curious humans.
The Electron Rocket
The Electron Rocket stands 17 meters (56 feet) tall, and has a diameter of 1.2 meters (3 feet 11 inches), and carries a fully-fueled mass of 10,500 kilograms (23,100 pounds). Its first stage is powered by a cluster of nine Rutherford electric engines using refined kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Combined, they provide 34,500 pounds (15,649 kilograms) of thrust at liftoff – increasing to 41,500 pounds (18,824 kilograms) of thrust in a vacuum.
Compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, a neck-straining 180-feet tall, the Electron is very small. But there has been a great demand for small rockets that can carry tiny satellites. Companies specializing in nano-satellites are limited when trying to find a launch company, and usually, have to hitch rides on launches of much bigger probes.
And as the Verge is reporting, with the "Electron, small satellite operators can potentially pay for an entire rocket ride for their hardware, and Rocket Lab says individual flights may start as low as $4.9 million. The company says it already has a full manifest of customers waiting for trips."
More about New Zealand, Rocket Lab, electron rocket, startup company, Satellite launch
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