Tag Archives: Rocket Labs

Smallsat rocket launchers get NASA contracts

The competition heats up: NASA this week awarded contracts ranging from $4.7 to $6.9 million to three different smallsat launch companies.

The companies are Firefly Space Systems, Rocket Lab USA, and Virgin Galactic. The second is the company that just won the contract to put a privately-built lunar rover on the moon (part of the Google Lunar X-Prize).

In the past, cubesats and other small satellites could only afford to be secondary payloads on much larger rockets. Thus, they were at the mercy of the needs of the primary payload, often resulting in significant unplanned delays before launch. This in turn acted to discourage the development of smallsats. Now, with these private launch companies designed to service them exclusively the smallsat industry should start to boom.

Note also the low cost of these contracts. The small size of cubesats and the launchers designed for them means everything about them costs much less. Putting an unmanned probe into space is thus much more affordable.

Moon Express buys launch contract

The competition heats up: The leading private effort to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, Moon Express, has signed a contract with the smallsat launch company Rocket Labs for three launches.

Mountain View, California-based Moon Express plans to use the launches to send to the moon new, smaller versions of its MX-1 lunar lander. Two of the launches will take place in 2017, with a third to be scheduled. All three will use Rocket Lab’s Electron small launch vehicle, whose first flight is scheduled for no earlier than late 2015 from New Zealand. – See more at: http://spacenews.com/moon-express-buys-rocket-lab-launches-for-lunar-missions/#sthash.J1hEuCp3.dpuf

Rather than piggyback on the major launch of big payload, which would deny them any control over launch dates, they have signed with a new and as yet unproved small rocket company. The result? Not only do we have the chance of getting our first privately built lander on the Moon, the contract jumpstarts a new rocket company designed to put small payloads into space.

Rocket Labs picks New Zealand for its launch site

The competition heats up: The small sat rocket company Rocket Labs has chosen a location in New Zealand as its future launch site.

Rocket Lab’s all-black Electron booster offers launch for less than $5 million. The company, whose investors include Lockheed Martin, is targeting clients such as university programs and small start-ups, Beck said, and it already has 30 potential clients.

The company didn’t specify how much it was investing in the site, which is due to be completed in the fourth quarter. New Zealand, which has been used in the past by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, is considered a prime location because rockets launched from that deep in the Southern hemisphere can reach a wide range of Earth orbits. Rocket Lab’s remote site on the Kaitorete Spit in the Canterbury region also means it has less air and sea traffic, which translates into more frequent launches and economies of scale, the company said. It also will no longer compete for airspace with the U.S. government.

Rocket Labs will have to actually launch something to really make the competition heat up. This announcement, however, illustrates that in the long run, the United States has some significant disadvantages as a spaceport location.