Rocket Lab completes construction of first launchpad

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The competition heats up: Rocket Lab today announced the completion of its first launch complex at its launch site in New Zealand.

Air traffic near the launch complex site is fairly sparse, which the company says will allow it to achieve the “highest frequency of launches in history,” according to a statement from the company obtained by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, told in an interview that the complex is licensed to conduct a launch as frequently as every 72 hours. However, the company expects to carry out a launch about four to five times per month, he said.

The statement from Rocket Lab declared its new facility “the world’s first private orbital launch complex.” The private spaceflight company Blue Origin operates a private launch facility in Texas, but has only used that facility for suborbital flights. The private spaceflight company SpaceX has not yet completed construction on its private orbital launch facility in Texas.

They say they will begin test launches before the end of the year.

One comment

  • Edward

    From the article: “sun-synchronous orbits (so the satellite flies over a point on the Earth at the same time every day).

    There are two advantages to sun-synchronous orbits. The shadows on your photographs are the same with each pass, allowing for less ambiguity in photo interpretation between photos, and a satellite can remain always in sunshine, saving weight on batteries, because the satellite does not go into Earth’s shadow.

    Although the cost per pound is a bit high, about $17,000*, customers will be very happy to be able to put their satellites into specific orbits rather than into the arbitrary orbits that they would be stuck with by piggybacking with other (primary) satellites on larger rockets. There are many other launch companies vying for this niche (about 20, last I heard), but getting in sooner than later may give Rocket Lab the advantage to be very successful, so long as they can adapt to the coming competition.

    It is encouraging that Rocket Lab has several contracts already signed, as it demonstrates that customers are confident that the company will succeed. I am very excited about Rocket Lab, and I think that their success will encourage the launch and use of many more small satellites than in the past.

    If inexpensive small satellites become common, their use may be very different than the current use of large, heavy satellites. An inexpensive satellite may need to operate for only a few months or weeks in Low Earth Orbit in order to pay for itself, and then it can deorbit and avoid becoming space debris.

    * Orbital ATK’s Pegasus rocket also launches small spacecraft. It has three times the launch weight capacity but at ten times the price.

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