Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab yesterday announced its next launch window, beginning on October 15, while adding that it has switched out the payload planned for that commercial launch.
The launch, scheduled for a two-week window starting October 15, will take a single spacecraft created by Astro to low Earth orbit. Corvus — the genus to which crows and ravens belong — is the name of the series of imaging satellites the company has already put up there; hence the name of the mission.
But this mission wasn’t scheduled to launch for some time yet. October’s launch, the fifth this year from Rocket Lab, was set to be another customer’s, but that customer seems to have needed a bit of extra time to prepare — and simply requested a later launch date.
Rocket Lab correctly touts this late and fast switch as an example of its ability to provide on-demand service to its customers. Making a switch like this is rare in rocketry.
At the same time, Rocket Lab had hoped to launch as many as sixteen times in 2019, with launches occurring monthly beginning in the spring. They have not come close to that pace, and right now it does not look like the company will top ten launches in 2019. and will likely do much less.
Whether this is indicative of problems at Rocket Lab, or with its various customers, is not clear, though I suspect the latter. The rocket has been reliable and operational now for more than a year.
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