Rocket Lab gets another contract


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Capitalism in space: With its first test launch set for Monday, Rocket Lab today earned a new launch contract, this time from Spaceflight, a company that acts as a charter company putting together launches for smallsat companies.

Spaceflight buys a launch from a rocket company, and then sells slots to smallsat companies that cannot afford to buy the whole launch. This way Spaceflight can tailor each launch to the needs of the different smallsats. Though they have previously purchased launches from India’s PSLV, Russia’s Dnepr, and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Rocket Lab’s Electron fits this model more perfectly, because — as a small rocket designed for smallsats, it doesn’t require a lot of smallsats to fill its payload. Thus, they can offer the smallsats on board access to orbits not normally available. This will make it relatively easy to find customers for the launch.

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5 comments

  • LocalFluff

    “Dedicated rideshare”, isn’t that an oxymoron? What’s better with being secondary payload on an Electron than on a large launcher? And what special orbit will it launch into that larger launchers don’t launch to? Spaceflight has arranged the launch of over 100 smallsats so they obviously know what they are doing. But I don’t get it.

  • LocalFluff: This is how I see it: Electron is a smallsat launcher. It will be very cheap to buy, and can deliver a handful of smallsats to high inclination orbits that these smallsats will never get the chance to reach as secondary payloads on a large rocket like a Falcon 9.

    In other words, by buying a launch from a small rocket the smallsat companies obtain flexibility.

  • LocalFluff

    I see that the typical launch cost per unit cubesat (max 1.33 kg) is $100,000. And Electron could take more than a hundred cubesat units. Hmm.

    So this market has nothing to do with large launchers’ cost per kilogram to orbit. I suppose there are high fixed costs for compliance and certification and such, which a dedicated small rocket provider can cut down by alot by not having a billion dollar primary payload. If administration (and insurance) costs $100,000 then the per kilo price doesn’t really matter. $110,000 on Ariane 5 or $102,000 on Falcon Heavy. So now I wonder however the large launchers will be able to compete with small launchers for smallsats ;-) Hey, I change as I learn.

  • great post. it is nice to visit your site.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “So this market has nothing to do with large launchers’ cost per kilogram to orbit.

    It has a lot to do with the flexibility of being able to get to the proper orbit sooner rather than later. If you are going to piggyback on another satellite’s ride “uphill,” then you have to wait for another satellite that is going close to where you want to go. This often takes time. Time that hurts your business model. Waiting for the (assumed) cheaper ride may cost more in lost business than the savings.

    Plus, secondary payloads are second in importance, not first.

    It sounds like the company Spaceflight is working like NanoRacks works for the ISS. They both make it easier to work with the actual service provider.

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