It has been a hectic and successful year that included a 10-year anniversary celebration, the qualification of the 3D printed Rutherford engine, qualification of the second stage of the Electron rocket and the development of major infrastructure including remote tracking, test facilities and completion of the launch site in Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand. Altogether there have been successful launches of over 80 sounding rockets and in 2009 Rocket Lab became the first private company to reach space from the Southern Hemisphere. The momentum has been continuous, until now, just for a little while.
Rocket Lab's first test flight has been delayed... just a bit. Originally planned to test launch between November 17 and December 24 the company will now delay until early next year, 2017.
Rocket Lab media spokeswoman Catherine Moreau-Hammond said the team had worked tirelessly this year, having opened the Launch Complex 1 site in September in a ceremony at Onenui Station, and with the holidays fast approaching they felt it best to allow everyone a decent break. Additionally, their community, Mahia, experiences a considerable population spike through the Christmas holidays.
“We’ve had a hugely successful year, and are pleased to have qualified multiple, major vehicle systems, completed Launch Complex 1, doubled the size of our team and completed many regulatory milestones. We will continue to make information available to the public in the lead-up to the first test. We are thankful for the continued support of our neighbors, suppliers and supporters,” she said.
The facility will be the primary site for launches of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150 kg payload to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit. New Zealand’s remote island location and low volume of marine and air traffic create ideal conditions for frequent launch opportunities. In addition, launches from the site can access a uniquely wide range of orbital inclinations—from 39 degrees through sun-synchronous. Facilities at Launch Complex 1 include a vehicle processing hangar where the vehicle will be prepared for launch as well as a 50 tonne launch platform. The platform will tilt forward to lift the rocket to a vertical position prior to launch. Satellites launched from the complex will be used to provide services including optimized crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data and search and rescue services. The company is currently working through the qualification of the first stage of the sleek Electron rocket and will look to begin the test flight phase once qualification and launch licencing are complete.
Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove commercial barriers to space, making it accessible by providing frequent and affordable launch opportunities.