Rocket Lab celebrates first successful commercial launch

Rocket Lab celebrates first successful commercial launch

But Rocket Lab's Electron is a harbinger of a new breed of rocket - small, cheap, able to be launched frequently - that could prove much more important in the future of how companies send swarms of smaller satellites to orbit.

On top of this, the company has a private launch complex stationed on the remote Māhia Peninsula in eastern New Zealand that is licensed to launch up to 120 times per year. The Electron Rocket of theirs has nicknamed "It's Business Time".

"We made a decision to build and launch two more satellites over the past few months and Rocket Lab has moved at the speed of light to incorporate them in this mission, assist us with licensing and complete integration in record time", commented Fleet Space Technologies chief executive Flavia Tata Nardini recently.

Rocket Lab's launches don't feature any high-drama landings like we've come to expect from SpaceX and Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin.

The launch keeps Rocket Lab - valued at more than $1.2 billion and based in New Zealand and California - at the front of the pack in the small rocket race. On Sunday morning, the rocket put into orbit six satellites and experimental spacecraft to test technologies to control space debris. One among them was a drag sail demonstrator, mainly created to practice de-orbiting space junk in orbit.

Six satellites onboard a rocket launched from the Mahia Peninsula have all been successfully deployed into orbit.

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The first commercial flight of the Electron, which company called It's Business Time, started at 16:50 local time (07:50 Kiev time).

A new production facility that was opened in Auckland last month by prime minister Jacinda Ardern and "Star Trek" star William Shatner is aiming to build, test and launch an Electron rocket every month in 2019 and every week by the end of 2020.

Other prominent companies in the dedicated smallsat launch industry include Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit and SpaceX veteran Jim Cantrell's Vector. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites", he explains.

The company was started by Beck, a largely self-taught engineer, who dreamed of building rockets since his childhood growing up on New Zealand's South Island.

Beck estimates there are over 100 companies trying to catch up. The list price for launching 100 to 225 kilograms (220 to 500 pounds) of payload into low Earth orbit is $5 million.

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