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Rocket Lab considering further targets for in-space Photon upper stage

Capitalism in space: As noted during a speech yesterday by CEO Peter Beck, Rocket Lab is considering further interplanetary targets for its still functioning Photon upper stage, that helped launch NASA’s CAPSTONE mission toward the Moon.

Rocket Lab is continuing to operate Lunar Photon more than a month after it deployed CAPSTONE. The spacecraft is currently about 1.3 million kilometers from Earth, he said, and will swing back to Earth later in the month.

The spacecraft still has 10-15% of its propellant remaining. “As it scoots past Earth,” Beck said, “we’ll have a crack at doing something cool with it and see how far into the solar system we can get with it.”

Rocket Lab hopes to use a future Photon stage to send a probe to Venus, and is using the Photon in space now for engineering tests. It is also selling this technology as a viable cheaper alternative to the typically expensive interplanetary probes.

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8 comments

  • ” . . . we’ll have a crack at doing something cool with it and see how far into the solar system we can get with it.”

    A very American sentiment.

  • Jeff Wright

    Any cameras on it? That kilometer wide Earth Trojan might be a good target if they do some loops and do a slingshot/breakaway. Pass the word.

  • sippin_bourbon

    No cameras. They removed them all the limit weight for the capstone mission.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Sidenote:

    Rocketlab is prepping an Electron rocket to go to Virginia for launch from Wallops around the end of the year.
    https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/1556722181047865344

    Also, this was published yesterday:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/unlike-other-former-spacs-rocket-lab-is-already-science-not-fiction-11660045735
    Paywall for WSJ, however.

  • ROBERT NABORNEY

    “Rocket Lab considering further targets for in-space Photon upper stage” Peking sounds pretty good

  • sippin_bourbon

    I would love to see them do a fly by of an asteroid.. Or even Ceres.

  • Mitch S.

    After SpaceX, Rocket Lab is the space company that seems to be making things happen.
    The key to their future is likely to be Neutron. It’s a bit early to start seeing hardware but I wonder how development is going.
    Will be interesting to see if Rocket Lab’s philosophy of fancier, lighter carbon fiber rocket with simpler engines works out.

  • Edward

    Mitch S.wrote: “Will be interesting to see if Rocket Lab’s philosophy of fancier, lighter carbon fiber rocket with simpler engines works out.

    SpaceX originally thought that Starship would be made of composites, but because the test units would need rapid construction and modification, they went to steel. Once the Starship and Super Heavy designs become more stable, it will be interesting to see whether they revisit composites.

    Composites have advantages, but they also come with some disadvantages.

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