With a stated mission to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent and dedicated launch opportunities, Rocket Lab was created in 2006 by Peter Beck to deliver a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment.
The company has now announced the flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster of their Electron launch vehicle. All primary components of the stage—including engines, vehicle structures, avionics and software systems—were designed, developed and tested in-house at Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab plans to initiate full vehicle testing in early 2017, once international launch licensing has been completed. The tests will occur from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, located on the Mahia Peninsula. Electron is a two-stage vehicle which is 1.2 meters in diameter and 17 meters in height and is designed to deliver a 150 kg payload to a 500 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO), the target range for the high-growth constellation-satellite market. Dedicated Electron launches are priced from US$4.9 million. Electron is a carbon-composite, affordable, smallsat launch vehicle that uses Rocket Lab’s 3D-printed Rutherford engines as the main propulsion system. Electron is 17 meters in length, 1.20 meters in diameter and has a lift-off mass of 12,800 kg.
“Rocket Lab has had a hugely successful year with qualification of all major vehicle systems, completion of Launch Complex 1 and considerable growth of our team and customer base,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. “We will continue to test the vehicle extensively in the lead-up to commercial operations and are looking forward to beginning the test flight program. Our focus with the Electron has been to develop a reliable launch vehicle that can be manufactured in high volumes—our ultimate goal is to make space accessible by providing an unprecedented frequency of launch opportunities.”