Rocket Lab, an American-New Zealand aerospace company, broke new ground today when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST, the company said.
Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world.
Over the coming weeks, Rocket Lab´s engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand will work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected during the test flight. The results will inform measures taken to optimize the vehicle.
The launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year. Rocket Lab will target getting to orbit on the second test and look to maximize the payload the rocket can carry.
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. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the United States, and 82 internationally.
Rocket Lab´s commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.
Rocket Lab´s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit. Since its creation in 2006 by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has delivered a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment.
Rocket Lab is a private company, with major investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Data Collective, Promus Ventures, Lockheed Martin and K1W1.
Electron is an entirely carbon-composite vehicle designed and manufactured in New Zealand that uses Rocket Lab´s 3D-printed Rutherford engines for its main propulsion system. The Electron vehicle is designed to carry payloads, such as smaller satellites, to a low orbit. Owing to the modern design and construction of the Electron — rapid and scalable manufacture with high levels of automation is possible.
The remote location of Launch Complex 1, particularly its low volume of air and marine traffic, is a key factor in enabling unprecedented access to space. The geographic position of the site means it is possible to access a large range of orbital azimuths — satellites launched from MÄhia can be delivered to a wide range of inclinations to provide services across many areas around the world.