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Rocket Lab launches first rocket carrying only commercial satellites from Mahia Peninsula
13 November 2018, 10:55 | Justin Tyler
'It's business time' for Rocket Lab launch on Saturday
November 11 from the airport in New Zealand space company Rocket Lab launched the ultra-light rocket Electron.
Six satellites are now orbiting Earth for paying customers, after a flawless launch yesterday just before 5pm.
A historic day for Rocket Lab - launching its first fully loaded commercial rocket in space.
The Electron rocket was launched from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
"We're thrilled to be leading the small satellite launch industry by reaching orbit a second time and deploying more payloads", he continued. It makes a 56-foot tall rocket (Electron) versus SpaceX's 230-foot tall rocket (Falcon 9) and charges US$5.7 million per launch. But Rocket Lab has another launch scheduled for December, as well as 16 launches planned for 2019.
On board were seven space craft equipped with small satellites and one drag sail named NABEO - created to retire inactive satellites to help combat space junk.
Rocket Lab's rivals have not yet pulled off an orbital launch, which means it is at the front of an increasingly crowded pack of rocket startups that want to launch smallsats for businesses and researchers.
Its engine is produced by a 3D printer in California, a move that helped cut costs, the company's chief financial officer Adam Spice told AFP.
Other prominent companies in the dedicated smallsat launch industry include Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit and SpaceX veteran Jim Cantrell's Vector.
Rocket Lab is known as the developer and operator of the launch vehicle Electron. It tried to start in may 2017, but because of problems in the telemetry, the launch was unsuccessful. IRVINE01, as it is called, is also the first satellite that will have Accion Systems' electrospray thrust modules, tiny modular things that are highly efficient and ideal for small craft, according to Tech Crunch. Another consideration is that smaller rockets don't cost near as much as a bigger one.
Sunday's Rocket Lab mission included payloads for customers like Spire Global, which collects data about ships and planes around the globe, and Fleet Space Technologies, which aims to connect remote devices to the internet. Its remote location should allow Rocket Lab to launch frequently - the company hopes to get to one launch a week and then to one every three days - as air and boat traffic are relatively low.
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