Rocket Lab succeeds in placing three satellites in orbit on second test launch

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Capitalism in space: The small rocket company Rocket Lab successfully placed three smallsats in orbit on the second test launch of its Electron rocket yesterday.

I have posted the video of the launch below the fold. Everything unfolded smoothly and without any issues, including the video feed. This success bodes well for Moon Express’s effort to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, which has a deadline the end of March. Though Rocket Lab had said it wants to do three test launches before initiating commercial services, they have already initiated those services with the placement of three satellites by two customers on this launch yesterday. They have also hinted that if this launch was a success they might accelerate commercial operations.

In addition, ULA successfully launched a military satellite on two days ago with its Atlas 5 rocket. The 2018 launch stands are thus as follows:

4 China
1 SpaceX
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

I should add that though the U.S.’s total matches China at the moment, the government shut down prevents any further U.S. launches. It also prevents SpaceX from doing its Falcon Heavy static fire test. (I wonder: would this be an issue if SpaceX was launching from its private launchsite at Boca Chica?)



  • wayne

    Great video!

  • wayne

    At about 21:30 in this video–there’s a call for “hot-swapping,” and then a part of the rocket is ejected –to what does that refer & what are they doing at that point?

  • wayne

    “Why The Electron Rocket May Be Cheapest Way To Get To Space”
    Scott Manley 1-21-2018

    Lots-o-factoids on the rocket. Very well done.

    >”hot-swap,”– dumping depleted engine battery packs.

  • Willi

    I’m expecting some feminist to get all upset because there were no women in the Rocket Lab control room…

  • wayne

    Jordan B Peterson:
    “Why so many Male Engineers and Female Nurses?”

  • Mitch S

    I hadn’t paid attention to Rocket Lab and didn’t know about the electric turbo pump.
    Funny that it’s RL and not Tesla’s sister company that chose to use electric motors and LI batteries to drive it’s pumps.
    It’s been something the auto industry has kicked around – using an electric motor to drive a supercharger compressor rather than exhaust gas or a belt drive. The advantage is better control (no turbo lag) but the added cost/weight/packaging issues seem to have held it back.
    I wonder how disposable rocket use affected the calculations – the batteries don’t have to withstand multiple charge/discharge cycles and the motor can also be designed for a limited lifespan.

    Wonder how it will work out. If the small launcher market proves lucrative, I’d think Space X may be in a position to whip up a small launcher using 2 – 5 Merlins. They are mass producing (by rocket industry scales) Merlins and they have used (recovered) Merlins, so their engine cost should be quite low…

  • wayne

    Good stuff!

    The battery pack they jettisoned apparently weighs around 200 kg. (ref: Scott Manley video) and they do use an inverter in the loop.

    Can someone dig into the specs on this? Do we know how much “electric” they need and for how long? (we’re going for amps, is that correct?)

    btw: Excellent staging-video!
    (I’d like more telemetry in the future, but not going to whine about it– great video all around!)

    -Totally fanciful and I don’t want to distract from the actual reality of the success–(I got wrapped up in Tesla-Stuff on the science-channel yesterday…) could we ever beam electricity to a rocket in flight?

  • wodun

    January 22, 2018 at 9:59 am

    I’m expecting some feminist to get all upset because there were no women in the Rocket Lab control room…

    Did you just assume their gender? Report to the re-education super fun camp.

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