Rocket Lab’s Electron launches seven small satellites from New Zealand
Rocket Lab, a private American company that manufactures and launches small satellites, put seven satellites via its Electron vehicle during a launch from New Zealand.
Liftoff occurred at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 GMT) on Saturday, June 29. The mission had launch dates of June 27 and 28 but was pushed back to the twenty-ninth. Each day between June 27 and July 10 Rocket Lab had a two-hour launch window to get the vehicle off the pad.
The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand a site that could become very busy in the coming days. According to Rocket Lab: Rocket Lab’s next mission is yet to be announced, but is scheduled for lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in the coming weeks. Rocket Lab’s manifest is booked with monthly launches for the remainder of 2019, scaling to a launch every two weeks in 2020.
Nicknamed “Make it Rain” after Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries’, rain-drenched home, Saturday’s launch was the seventh for Rocket Lab‘s Electron launch vehicle and the third to take flight this year.
Following liftoff and separation of the rocket’s first stage, the satellites were delivered into an elliptical orbit by Electron’s second stage about 56 minutes after the rocket had left the pad. The rocket’s Kick Stage ignited, carrying the payloads into a circular orbit. Once that is accomplished the Kick Stage fell back to Earth and burned up in its atmosphere.
As noted, the mission is being launched on behalf of Spaceflight Industries, a commercial company that books and manages low-cost satellite launches and ride shares for private companies, non-profits, and governments, with the goal of making space more accessible. According to Spaceflight Now, the payloads launched on this latest mission include two Prometheus nano-satellites for US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the BlackSky Global 3 commercial Earth observation satellite, two SpaceBEE data relay satellites on behalf of Swarm Technologies, a technology demonstration CubeSat named ACRUX 1 for Australia’s Melbourne Space Program, and a seventh, unidentified satellite.
Initially conceived in 2013, Electron is designed to launch small satellites rapidly, reliably, and affordably. According to Rocket Lab, “We’ve designed Electron to be built and launched with unprecedented frequency, while providing the smoothest ride and most precise deployment to orbit.” Its “Kick Stage” is built to bring satellites to very precise orbits, then de-orbit without leaving any parts in space.
“Congratulations to the dedicated teams behind the payloads on this mission, and also to our team for another flawless Electron launch,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “It’s a privilege to provide tailored and reliable access to space for small satellites like these, giving each one a smooth ride to orbit and precise deployment, even in a rideshare arrangement.”
Video courtesy of Rocket Lab
Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.