Rocket Lab successfully completed its first commercial launch, establishing a dominant position in the fast-growing market for small satellites in orbit.
The company's electronic missile was launched at 4:50 am local time from a new launch site in New Zealand on November 11, with six satellites.
"We are delighted to have run a small satellite launch industry by reaching orbit for the second time and distributing more load capacity," said CEO Peter Beck.
Electron – about a quarter of a 70-meter-high Falcon 9 SpaceKs is designed to loop loads weighing from 150 to 225 kg (330 to 496 lb) in orbit around the Earth.
This size is no coincidence: Rocket Lab is ready to start operations from dozens of well-funded companies that build expansive constellations of small satellites that rely on powerful, miniaturized electronics.
Company's closest competitors – including Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit; Vector Launch, created by former SpaceKs team members; and Firefli Aerospace – are now facing renewed pressure to reach the orbit.
Based in South California, Rocket Lab was founded in 2008 under the leadership of Peter Beck, Executive Director, and appeared as part of DARPA's development of small missile engines for the US Army. He won a $ 25 million grant from the New Zealand government, and last year, Silicon Vallei raised $ 75 million to investors, valued at $ 1 billion.
Like its unique rocket, which saves costs for ultra-lightweight composite materials and turbochargers on batteries, Rocket Lab is the only private company with its own launch site on the New Zealand peninsula Mahia. This, says Beck, takes precedence over other companies that want to offer a fast and flexible launch option for satellite manufacturers; the company will also work from a NASA launch site in Virginia.
Beck says he hopes the company will start flying every week in 2019. The company launched its first rocket in January 2018, setting up satellites and roughly launching an orbiting art project.
The second launch of the company was expected in June, but smaller missile problems, and then the radar systems of the launch area, led to the delays – a typical experience in space business. Now, a mission called "It's Business Time" – jokes with references to another global icon, Kiwi – finally marks the company's transition to commercial operations.
"With the launch electron, a fast and reliable access to the universe is now a reality for small satellites," says Beck. To prove this, the company's next mission will launch ten experimental cubes in December for the US space agency NASA.
Buyers at Rocket Lab's newest car include Spire, a company that uses satellites to track ships, planes and times of orbit; Fleet Space Systems, which hopes to provide communications for Internet applications; and student satellites from the University of Irvine. Other Rocket Lab users include launcher Spaceflight, Kleos Space and Circle Aerospace.