Ultralight rocket Electron first put 6 satellites into orbit

Gwen Vasquez
November 13, 2018

"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.

The Electron rocket also carried a so-called "drag sail" technology demonstration, which is created to pull old, inactive satellites down into Earth's atmosphere where they burn up and reduce the amount of space junk in orbit.

The Electron rocket is 1.2 metres in diameter and 17 metres in height.

Success! It definitely was business time for Rocket Lab yesterday as its Electron launch vehicle blasted off from the Māhia Peninsula yesterday (November 11).

One of Rocket Lab's customers, Australian startup Fleet Space Technologies, launched two Proxima satellites that will provide IoT device connectivity for the Earth's most remote locations.

Other prominent companies in the dedicated smallsat launch industry include Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit and SpaceX veteran Jim Cantrell's Vector. Saturday marked the first commercial launch for the Electron rocket as it pushed seven spacecraft into orbit.

"[My team] built a handsome machine", Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told CNN Business on Sunday.

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"We came at the challenge of opening access to space from a new perspective", said Beck.

These smaller rockets should help reduce launch wait times from 18 to 24 months or more, at the bigger companies, to a mere six months.

The launch marks the start of Rocket Lab's push towards putting a rocket into orbit each week.

Now the company intends to attempt a final commercial launch this year, before setting an ambitious goal of 16 launches for the year 2019. Beck and a handful of engineers guided Rocket Lab through the first few years of the company's existence, building smaller, prototype rockets.

Rocket Lab, though, faced two false starts trying to get its third rocket to launch.

The company's first successful test launch took place in May of 2017, and in January of 2018, it sent a second rocket into space with a handful of customers' satellites.

"We're very lucky the investors we have onboard are not looking for a quick exit but rather to build a large company", he says.

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