Spaceflight Insider

Rocket Lab acquires additional funding for further development of new launch system

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket completes its first integrated stack test

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket completes its first integrated stack test. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab recently secured $75 million in additional funding from a group of investors including Data Collective, Promus Ventures, and another investor whose name was not announced. The additional funding brings their total funds, to date, up to $145 million.

Rocket Lab has also announced the opening of a new Huntington Beach, California, office. CEO Peter Beck said: “While we’ve had a presence in the LA area since 2013, this new facility will enable us to triple our production rate. We’re actively hiring for our engineering and business units and we’re committed to rapidly growing and scaling in both our Huntington Beach HQ and Auckland, NZ office.”

Rocket Lab's Electron Launch Vehicle at Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

Rocket Lab’s Electron Launch Vehicle at Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab company


Rocket Lab is a private company focusing on providing low-cost launch services for smaller satellite companies. Touting lower costs and increased frequency of launches, when compared to the larger launch providers such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, the company is targeting smaller payloads that normally wait to launch along with a larger payload on one of the larger rockets. Waiting for a “tag along” ride normally results in them waiting for extended periods of time before finally getting their payloads into orbit.

Electron rocket


Rocket Lab’s new launch vehicle, named Electron, is an oxygen-/kerosene-fueled rocket capable of carrying a maximum payload of 496 pounds (225 kilograms) into orbit. The two stage rocket is only 55 feet (17 meters) in height and just less than 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter, which is quite small compared to the larger launch vehicles we are accustomed to seeing. Substantial weight savings were achieved by utilizing carbon composites in the construction of the fairing and also the development of carbon composite liquid oxygen tank.

Rutherford engine


The Rutherford engine that powers the booster utilizes electric propellant pumps to lower weight and is the first engine using 3-D printing technology for all its primary components. Nine Rutherford engines provide 34,500 pounds-force (162 kilonewtons) of thrust for the first stage of the Electron rocket at liftoff. The second stage utilizes a variant of the Rutherford engine designed to provide better performance in a vacuum.

Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 launch site in Mahia, New Zealand

An aerial view of Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 launch site in Mahia, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

In December 2016, Rocket Lab announced the flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster of the Electron launch vehicle.

Launch Complex 1


Rocket Lab is currently finishing the commissioning of its own private launch site, named Launch Complex 1, in Mahia, New Zealand. Once successful testing of all the systems at the facility are completed, the facility will be ready to begin launches. In addition, Rocket Labs also has an agreement with NASA to utilize Kennedy Space Center launch facilities to launch their rockets to low inclination orbits in the future.

The first Electron rocket, appropriately named “It’s a Test”, arrived at Launch Complex 1 on February 16, 2017, and is currently being prepared for testing and eventually launching on its maiden flight. The first three launches of the new rocket will be test launches to validate the vehicle before beginning flights carrying customer payloads.

Rocket Labs CEO Peter Beck, referring to the name, said: “We put it out to our team to name the vehicle. We wanted to acknowledge the intensive research and development Electron has undergone and that continues with these test flights.”

Video Courtesy of Rocket Lab

 

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Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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