Rocket Lab has confirmed the company will launch two Electron rockets just weeks apart in late 2018 — the company's It’s Business Time mission will launch in November, with the ELaNa XIX mission for NASA to follow soon thereafter in December — both missions will launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch pad in New Zealand, Launch Complex-1.
Rocket Lab stood down from an earlier launch window for It’s Business Time in June of 2018 after unusual behavior was identified in a motor controller during pre-launch operations. Following analysis, the motor controllers have been modified and undergone new qualification testing ahead of the next launch.
It’s Business Time’s manifest includes IRVINE01, an educational payload from the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP), and NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmbH and manifested as a hosted payload with support from Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation. Spire Global also has two Lemur-2 satellites on board, and a GeoOptics Inc. satellite, built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, rounds out the mission.
After It’s Business Time, the next Electron off the pad will be NASA’s 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites mission, or ELaNa-XIX. The launch is manifested with innovative research and development payloads from NASA and educational institutions that will conduct a wide variety of new, on orbit science. Applications of the cubesats booked on the mission include research such as measuring radiation in the Van Allen belts to understand their impact on spacecraft, through to monitoring space weather.
The ELaNa-XIX mission is also NASA’s first ever Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) mission, constituting the smallest class of dedicated launch services used by NASA and marks a significant milestone for Rocket Lab in providing such access to space for a NASA-sponsored mission of small satellites.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said that the speedy turnaround between launches is possible, thanks to designing the Electron rocket for rapid manufacture, as well as Launch Complex-1’s ability to process and launch vehicles quickly. He added that the Rocket Lab team focused on scaling up production to churn out Electron rockets at a rate of one per month. Now that the company is hitting that production rate, the firm is working to get them launched at the same frequency by the end of this year, and increasing cadence into 2019. Beck concluded by stating that this is an incredibly exciting time for the smallsat industry. Everyone on the planet will benefit from easier access to orbit in terms of innovation, research and exploration.
At 4:45 p.m. on October 9 at Satellite Innovation, Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck will be a speaker at the "Predicting Future Launch Costs" session. The questions of: Are we living in the new era of commodity space or waiting for its arrival? Can launch providers create a competitive advantage through novel re-flight policies, refunds and guarantees? What are best practices for scheduling the launch of a large constellation? What are the benefits of small dedicated launch vehicles vs large ride share vehicles? will be tackled by the session's moderator and speakers. Register to attend at satinnovation.com.