Spaceflight Insider

Rocket Lab’s manifest grows as it preps for its 1st fully-commercial flight

A file photo of Rocket Lab's Electron launch in January 2018. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

A file photo of Rocket Lab’s Electron launch in January 2018. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

In spite of a few setbacks with its Electron launcher earlier this year, Rocket Lab has a lavish lineup planned for the rocket, beginning with a flight next month.

Though the company has delivered satellites for customers before, Rocket Lab’s first fully-commercial mission, called “It’s Business Time,” is slated for early November. The mission’s original launch window, which opened in late April of this year, and its follow-up, which opened in June, both closed without a flight due to issues with a motor controller. Though the company took what it called “corrective measures” after the issue appeared the first time, the same issue returned during the window in June, prompting a longer delay to completely handle the problem.

“There’s only one measure that matters in the launch industry and that’s 100 percent mission success,” Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said at the time. “We’ll take some time to review the data and tweak whatever we need to ahead of a new launch window to make sure we achieve that.”

The payload manifest includes two Lemur-2 CubeSats for Spire; a GeoOptics Inc. satellite built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems; Irvine01, a small satellite for a STEM program that includes members from six public high schools in Irvine, California; and NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmBH (HPS GmbH).

The next Electron ride is scheduled for December 2018, and is set to carry NASA’s 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission, better known as ELaNa XIX. It is, according to Rocket Lab, “NASA’s first ever Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) mission, constituting the smallest class of dedicated launch services used by NASA.”

Additionally, Rocket Lab has signed two new contracts for its Electron. In early August, the company announced an agreement with Dubai-based Circle Aerospace for 10 dedicated launches of the carbon-composite rocket. Circle’s mission is to design, build, and, via Rocket Lab, launch satellites for customers worldwide, with a focus on customers from the Middle East. The first launch is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2019.

Then, in mid-September, Rocket Lab announced a contract with Kleos Space, a satellite technology company that’s based in Luxembourg. The contract is for the launch of the Kleos Scouting Mission (KSM), the first satellites in a constellation that is designed to “geolocate maritime radio to guard borders, protect assets and save lives,” according to a statement from Rocket Lab. The satellites, built by GomSpace, are scheduled to launch on an Electron in mid-2019.

“Small satellite technology like that of Kleos Space is increasingly playing a vital role in informing decisions on the ground that protect people and the environment,” Beck said, in a press release.

All of these Electron missions will use Launch Complex-1, Rocket Lab’s private launch pad in New Zealand, where Beck is originally from. Circle Aerospace may occasionally use Rocket Lab’s U.S. launch pad as well, which was announced in July and is expected to be ready by the first half of 2019.




Rae Botsford End is a freelance writer and editor whose primary work currently is writing technical white papers, contributing to SFI, and working on a speculative fiction novel that she hopes to have published soon. Rae wanted an opportunity to report on the various space-related events in and around Florida's Space Coast and approached SFI's founder about the possibility. Rae now covers an array of subjects for our growing website.

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