Rocket Lab successfully completed its first commercial release, establishing a dominant position in the rapid growth market to fly small satellites in orbit.
The company's Electron Rocket was launched at 4:50 p.m. The local time from New Zealand's launch site on November 11, taking six satellites.
"We are delighted to lead the small satellite launch industry to reach a new orbit and deploy more payload," said CEO Peter Beck.
The electron: around a quarter the size of Falcon 9 of 70 meters of SpaceX, is designed to cross loads that weigh between 150 and 225 kg (330 to 496 pounds) in orbit around the Earth.
This size is not an accident: Rocket Lab is ready to carry out businesses from dozens of well-funded companies, building expansive constellations of small satellites that depend on powerful and miniaturized electronics.
The closest competitors of the company, including Virgin Orbit by Richard Branson; Launch of vectors, founded by members of the former SpaceX team; and Firefly Aerospace-now face a new pressure to reach an orbit.
Headquartered in Southern California, Rocket Lab was founded in 2008 under the leadership of CEO Peter Beck and emerged as part of a DARPA program to develop small rocket engines for the US Army. He has earned a $ 25 million grant from the New Zealand government and, last year, raised $ 75 million from Silicon Valley investments, valuing the company in a billion dollars.
In addition to its unique rocket, which allows you to save costs with ultra-light composite materials and a battery turbopumpula, Rocket Lab is the only private company with its own launch site on the Mahia peninsula of New Zealand. This, says Beck, gives the advantage to other companies that seek to offer fast and flexible launch options to satellite manufacturers; The company will also operate from a NASA launch site in Virginia.
Beck says he expects the company to start flying every week in 2019. The company launched its first rocket in January 2018, placing satellites and shamelessly launching an art project in orbit.
The company's second release was expected in June, but the small problems with the rocket and launch site radar systems have caused delays – a typical experience in the space business. Now, the mission called "The Business Time" – a joke reference to another global icon of Kiwi – ultimately marks the company's transition to commercial operations.
"With the launch vehicle of Electron, fast and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites," says Beck. To prove that the company's next mission will launch ten experimental cubes for the NASA NASA space agency in December.
The clients of the most recent vehicle of Rocket Lab included to Spire, a company that uses satellites to track boats, airplanes and time of orbit; Fleet Space Systems, which expects to provide communications for Internet of things; and the student satellites of the University of Irvine. Other Rocket Lab clients include the Spaceflight launch corrector, Kleos Space and Circle Aerospace.