Rocket Lab launches its first Electron rocket


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Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today successfully completed the first test flight of their Electron rocket.

The rocket did not reach orbit, though it did reach space altitude. More details here.

“It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team,” said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab. “We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point. We’ve developed everything in house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team.

“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business,” says Beck.

It appears they had a problem with the upper stage. Nonetheless, this is a great achievement. They were completely privately funded. They built their own launchpad. When they make orbit they will be the first company to have done such a thing.

I have embedded footage of the launch below the fold.

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8 comments

  • Alex

    There was also a problem with first stage, which made a roll movement just from the start. I assume that this was not intented. However, second stage did not roll after first stage separation. Here some more informative videos:

    View from the rocket downwards during inital flight phase:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vE2AnwJ2Qs

    Here a view, later one, downwards the second stage (incl. stage separation), which fallen short of required velocity to reach orbit.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omk24sfUuhY

  • Gealon

    Nice to see something new. There’s a refreshing quality seeing this fledgling launch, like watching the launch footage of the captured V2’s from the 50’s, taking those first tentative steps into space.

  • Rod

    Lox Slosh

  • Alex

    @Rod: Do you think that the first stage’s roll movement, which was later compensated by the second stage control system, has caused LOX sloshing? YDo you remember to that special Falcon 1 test flight?

    Here is new superb video from Space Lab.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA_8HPsua0c

    Mr. Beck stays same the rocket man, who can cheer as a boy. Here are videos, which shows his beginnings in 2009 and earlier. The man made huge progress and added in 8 years also some weight (:-):

    Yes, it is burning!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlMFit6nd6I

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4BW1DeakOk

  • ” . . . we did it in under four years.”

    NASA take note.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Looks as though Rocket Lab equaled or bettered what it took SpaceX three tries to do with Falcon 1. That ain’t too shabby.

    I will eagerly await definitive word on what the defects were in this first test and what fixes are implemented.

  • Alex

    @Dick Eagleson: Yep, BTW, the Electron rocket is technologically even more advanced as Falcon 1 was. For example, its whole structure (incl. LOX tank) is made of carbon composite and it employs a new engine scheme, electrically driven propellant pumps.

  • Edward

    Dick Eagleson wrote: “Looks as though Rocket Lab equaled or bettered what it took SpaceX three tries to do with Falcon 1.

    There was a time when first launches always blew up. As recently as the 1990s, 10 of the 11 new rockets’ first launches failed in some way. Although this one also failed in some way, at least it didn’t blow up, and it seems that rocket scientists are getting better, learning from the past.

    This is what develops people into “steely eyed rocket men.”

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