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Rocket Lab Completes First Commercial Launch Of Its Electron Rocket

13 November 2018

The rocket blasted off at 4.50pm, soon after a new launch window period of just over a week began at 4pm. The rocket builder reached orbit for the first time in January with its final test launch but saw this commercial attempt delayed due to a "motor control" issue with the rocket.

"The world is waking up to the new normal", said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck, speaking of the triumphant launch.

Rocket Lab's New Zealand launch pad is located on the tip of the Mahia Peninsula, between Napier and Gisborne.

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USA -based aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab completed its first successful commercial launch on Saturday, sending seven spacecraft including "six tiny satellites and a drag sail demonstrator" into orbit aboard a relatively small Electron rocket designed primarily for smallsats and cubesats, Spaceflight Now reported.

After blasting off from the company's New Zealand launch site in the early hours of Sunday morning, the two-stage Electron launch vehicle successfully separated to off-load satellites for Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies and the Irvine CubeSat Stem Program. The Electron's Curie upper stage also carried "NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator, designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmbH, to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites and reduce space junk", according to a Rocket Lab statement.

The Electron rocket is 1.2 metres in diameter and 17 metres in height.

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Although the going-rate for deliveries is much lower for SpaceX, customers are flocking to Rocket Lab for reduced wait time and speedier deliveries. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites", says Beck.

Rocket Lab, which is headquartered in California but has a strong New Zealand presence, is pushing out on the frontier of space technology by using carbon-composite materials for its rocket casings, and by taking advantage of 3-D printing to manufacture its electric-pump-fed Rutherford rocket engines. But Rocket Lab has another launch scheduled for December, as well as 16 launches planned for 2019.

The company will try for one more commercial launch in 2018. Electron can put payloads up to the size of a refrigerator into orbit.

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Rocket Lab Completes First Commercial Launch Of Its Electron Rocket