Science

Next generation rocket company reaches orbit in milestone test

Next generation rocket company reaches orbit in milestone test”

The flight was terminated by range safety officials before the rocket could reach orbit because of a problem with the ground equipment used to track the launch. During the first flight test of the vehicle, appropriately called "It's a Test", the Electron made it to space but failed to make it to orbit.

If Sunday's launch is successful, it will be the first time a satellite is launched into orbit from New Zealand.

Chief executive Peter Beck said the day marked a new era in commercial access to space. Another chance for liftoff slipped away on Friday night PT (Saturday afternoon New Zealand time), primarily due to interference from a couple of boats that were sailing in an off-limits zone.

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"Still Testing" carried a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship tracking company Spire.

Rocket Lab's big ambition is to be a dedicated launcher of small satellites.

Rocket Lab blasted off into space on Saturday, taking a major step toward opening low-priced access for a new generation of satellites.

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Rocket Lab said previously that the results of the "Still Testing" launch, if the rocket "performs nominally", may cause the company to accelerate the Electron program into commercial use. Compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, a neck-straining 180-feet tall, the Electron is very small.

The Electron rocket, built with 3D-printed engines and a mostly composite construction, is designed for rapid manufacture and a high launch rate.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history. It aims to develop a low-priced transportation system to allow customers to send payloads, first to the moon, and then to destinations throughout the solar system at an affordable price.

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