Rocket Lab’ Electron rocket successfully deployed satellites in Earth’s orbit


Space technology company Rocket Lab has announced that its small satellite launch vehicle Electron has reached Earth’s orbit where it successfully deployed satellites for the first time.

Described as the world’s first battery-powered rocket, Electron was launched from the company’s complex on the tip of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, roughly eight months after its maiden voyage was cut short because of data transmission issues.

Unlike the first mission – which aimed to test the rocket’s hardware – this mission envisioned deploying three nanosatellites in orbit, including an Earth-imaging Dove satellite, and two Lemur-2 satellites that would be used by the Spire space venture for monitoring weather and tracking ships.

The mission, originally scheduled for December 2017, was initially postponed due to technical glitches and weather concerns. The company then missed out on another opportunity for liftoff a fortnight ago, this time because of interference caused by a few boats that were sailing in ‘an off-limits zone’.

As they say, the third time’s a charm and this time the Electron took to the blue sky without a single problem.

The rocket’s ascent into orbit was immortalized by numerous cameras fitted on its bodywork, which recorded every step of the way from liftoff to the deployment of the satellites.

The electron is an entirely carbon-composite vehicle that is 20 meters in length and 1 meter in diameter, with a lift-off mass of 10,500 kg. Designed to transform the global space industry with affordable, high-frequency launches of small satellites, it is capable of delivering payloads of up to 225 kilograms to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.

The LA-based company has stated that it has already secured contracts from NASA, Spaceflight and Florida-based Moon Express, which is looking to use the rocket to send its MX-1E lander on a journey to the lunar surface.

The company is a strong favorite to win the Google Lunar X Prize competition, which will award $20 million to the first team to land on the moon, travel 500 meters on its surface and send back live imagery of the undertaking.

The competition ends on 31 March, but Rocket Lab’s successful launch suggests that Moon Express could still get their hands on the $20 million prize money.

Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said that even if they fail to win the Google Lunar X competition, the company already has plans in place to proceed with commercial lunar missions.

After all, Mr. Richards said, Moon Express’ was not founded to win a prize, but to develop a ‘solar system exploration architecture” that would enable cargo shipments to and from the moon.

It seems that the US-based aerospace manufacturer has its mission set and it is quite clear that it is on the right path to becoming the world’s leading producer of rocket launch services that are both cost-effective and lightweight.

The company was founded back in 2006 and it has a wholly owned subsidiary which is based in New Zealand.

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