Tag Archives: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab delivers first test rocket to launch site

The competition heats up: Rocket Lab has delivered its first test rocket to its New Zealand launch complex in preparation for testing.

Over the coming weeks, a series of tests and checkouts will be conducted at the site before the rocket, named “It’s a Test,” is signed-off to fly. “We put it out to our team to name the vehicle,” said Beck. “We wanted to acknowledge the intensive research and development Electron has undergone and that continues with these test flights.”

The launch, which will be the first orbital launch attempt from New Zealand, is the first of three planned tests before Rocket Lab begins providing customers commercial satellite launches.

They hope to launch their first commercial payload on an operational Electron rocket before the end of this year.

Moon Express completes funding for Google X-Prize lunar mission

The competition heats up: Moon Express, one of the five remaining contestants vying for the Google Lunar X-Prize, announced today that it has raised an additional $20 million to complete the necessary funding needed to complete its mission.

The new round brings the total Moon Express has raised to $45 million. Richards said the company is looking to raise an additional $10 million as a “contingency” and to support future missions. “This is not a stunt,” he said. “We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket.”

The company is developing a small lunar lander called the MX-1E. The spacecraft is designed to land on the moon and then “hop” to another landing site, fulfilling the requirement of the Google Lunar X Prize to travel at least 500 meters across the surface after landing. That initial mission will carry scientific and commercial payloads from several customers. Richards said Moon Express is currently focusing on the spacecraft’s key technology, its propulsion system. The company previously tested that propulsion technology in tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, but Richards said the company is making changes to improve its performance.

That additional performance is needed since the spacecraft will launch on Electron, a small launch vehicle being developed by U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which can only take the lander into low Earth orbit. Earlier mission concepts called for launching on a larger vehicle that could place the spacecraft into a geostationary transfer orbit. “We need that extra punch from our own engine in order to get to the moon,” Richards said.

The article provides one more tidbit, this time about Rocket Lab and its Electron rocket:

The company’s current schedule calls for integrating the spacecraft in July, and then shipping it to Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch site in October. The launch, scheduled for late this year, will be the seventh or eighth operational flight of the Electron, Richards said, shortly after a NASA mission under a Venture Class Launch Services contract Rocket Lab received in late 2015.

Although Rocket Lab has yet to launch an Electron — its first test flight is scheduled for no earlier than February — Richards believed the company would be ready in time for Moon Express, which faces a deadline of the end of this year to win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize before the prize expires. [emphasis mine]

In other words, if things go as planned, Rocket Lab will launch Electron in February, and then do about one launch per month before it launches Moon Express. That will be an impressive start for the new rocket company, should they succeed in doing it.

Rocket Lab rocket ready for first test flights

The competition heats up: Rocket Lab announced Monday that their new rocket, Electron, is on schedule for its first test flights early in 2017.

Launch startup Rocket Lab says it is ready to begin test flights of its Electron launch vehicle early next year, having concluded flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster.

Rocket Lab announced completion of these final milestones Dec. 12, saying in a press release that the company is waiting on international launch licensing before kicking off full vehicle testing. Spokesperson Catherine Moreau-Hammond told SpaceNews the company is imminently anticipating licenses from the U.S. and New Zealand — a requirement due to its status as a U.S. company launching out of New Zealand.

It appears right now that this company is in the lead to be the first smallsat rocket company in operation. I would guess that Vector Space Systems is second.

Rocket Lab delays first rocket test flights

Rocket Lab has revealed that it will not conduct its first test flight of its new Electron rocket before the end of the year.

Rocket Lab originally scheduled road closures for test launches between November 17 and December 24. The company is now planning to conduct the first test flight early next year. Rocket Lab media spokeswoman Catherine Moreau-Hammond said the team had worked tirelessly this year, and with the holidays fast approaching they felt it best to allow everyone a decent break. Ms Moreau-Hammond said this would also alleviate some pressure on Mahia, which experiences a considerable population spike through the Christmas holidays.

This is a new company, a new rocket, a new launchpad, in a new country inexperienced in rocket launches. It is therefore not surprising that things have been delayed.

Rocket Lab completes construction of first launchpad

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 Space.com. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, told Space.com 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.

New Zealand government okays commercial launches by Rocket Lab

The competition heats up: The New Zealand government has signed an interim contract authorizing commercial launches by the private company Rocket Lab, pending passage of permanent authorizing legislation next year.

Rocket Lab, which operates a private satellite launch site on the Mahia Peninsula between Napier and Gisborne, intends to start launch operations later this year, Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce said in a statement. The contract is an interim measure, preceding the Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill which will be introduced to Parliament this month to provide a regulatory regime for space launches from New Zealand.

The government wants the bill passed into law by mid-2017, Joyce said. In June, New Zealand signed the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) with the United States government, which allows commercial entities, including Rocket Lab, to import launch technology and satellites from the US.

Rocket Lab gets new launch contract

The competition heats up: Rocket Lab has signed a three launch contract with the smallsat Earth resources satellite company Planet (formerly Planet Labs).

The contract covers three dedicated launches of Dove satellites built by San Francisco-based Planet, formerly known as Planet Labs, on Electron vehicles. The companies did not announce terms of the deal, although Rocket Lab quotes a list price of $4.9 million per Electron launch on its website.

Mike Safyan, director of launch and regulatory affairs for Planet, said in an interview during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here that the number of satellites that each launch will carry is still being determined, but will likely be between 20 and 25. Each Dove is a three-unit cubesat with a mass of about five kilograms.

If this report as well as previous ones are correct, the first Electron rocket launch will happen before the end of this year.

First test flight for Rocket Lab upcoming

The competition heats up: With ground testing of its second stage completed, the first test flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is expected before the end of the year.

They are getting their launch site in New Zealand up and running, are beginning qualification tests of Electron’s first stage, and if all goes as scheduled hope to begin commercial launches in 2017.

First Rocket Lab launch this year

The competition heats up: The new launch company Rocket Lab has announced that it expects the inaugural launch of its Electron rocket to take place sometime in the middle of this year.

The company announced March 22 that it has completed qualification tests of the Rutherford engine, allowing it to be used in flights of the Electron vehicle. A video released by the company showed the engine firing on a test stand for more than two and a half minutes.

The first launch is planned for the middle of this year, company spokeswoman Catherine Moreau-Hammond said March 23, with the overall flight test program running through the second half of the year. Those launches are planned from a site the company is developing on New Zealand’s North Island.

This company is in direct competition with Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne, and like everyone will likely be in operation first, beating Branson’s company despite starting almost a decade later.

A new cheap rocket company

The competition heats up: A New Zealand company says it is building a rocket capable of launching cubesats into orbit for only $5 million.

Rocket Lab says it is building a carbon-composited launch vehicle –named Electron—which will send small satellites into earth’s orbit for five million U.S. dollars. The U.S. company, which is building the vehicle in New Zealand, expects the first to be ready next year and already has committed to its first 30 launch slots.

Though their low cost will once again increase the space launch customer base, they are not really in competition with any of the big players, who don’t really make their money launching cubesats. Instead, by focusing on the cubesat market, Rocket Lab is aimed at providing launch services to a niche that has, up until now, had no real launch services. If a university or small company wanted to launch a cubesat., they had to piggyback on a large launch.