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With a mighty roar, Rocket Lab blasts off to space

13 November 2018
With a mighty roar, Rocket Lab blasts off to space

The private space race is heating up.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck says while successfully reaching orbit and deploying payloads this year was a significant milestone for the company, transitioning from this to regular, streamlined production and launch operations cements Rocket Lab's position as leader in the small launch industry.

On board was seven spacecraft, which mostly comprised of small satellites and one drag sail called NABEO, which is created to deorbit inactive, small satellites to help reduce space junk.

Delayed from this past spring, the "It's Business Time" launch marks the beginning of Rocket Lab's acceleration toward launching at a weekly rate.

One of Rocket Lab's customers, Australian startup Fleet Space Technologies, launched two Proxima satellites that will provide IoT device connectivity for the Earth's most remote locations.

Rocket Lab recently moved into a new headquarters in Auckland where it has both mission control and a factory for producing rockets.

Electron is created to carry smaller payloads around 150 to 225 kg (330 to 495 lb), and the company intends to start ramping up its launches in 2019. It took off from the Launch Complex 1 of the organization on Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand at 10:50 pm Eastern time just the day before.

Rocket Lab's competition may not be too far behind.

The launch followed January's successful test flight where it deployed three satellites.

The satellites are from Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies, as well as an educational payload from the Irvine Cube Sat STEM Program, built by high school students in Southern California.

"The advent of right-sized, very small launch vehicles opens a new era of possibility for small satellite developers", said NASA's Scott Higginbotham.

These smaller rockets should help reduce launch wait times from 18 to 24 months or more, at the bigger companies, to a mere six months. And he's confident Rocket Lab will be one of them, he said.

There are seven payloads, all small satellites.

In comparison, 83 successful launches were made worldwide in 2017, of which 64 operated by commercial companies and the rest by space nations like China, India and Russian Federation.