Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Rocket Lab signs up new customer as launch window gets closer

An Electron rocket at the Launch Complex in Mahia. Photo / Supplied
An Electron rocket at the Launch Complex in Mahia. Photo / Supplied

Rocket Lab has signed on a new customer contract with a Seattle-based company as it counts down to a test launch from its Mahia pad.

Spaceflight has bought space on an Electron rocket to increase the frequency of its dedicated rideshare missions.

Dedicated rideshare for small satellites is an alternative where several payloads share the same launch to a specific destination. Spaceflight acts as an agent for a number of customers whose remote sensing missions require high revisit time over North America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said the company was delighted that Spaceflight has chosen to sign up as a customer ahead of testing.

It reflected the company's confidence in the Electron and its ability to provide frequent launch opportunities to low orbit, between 300km and 500km above Earth.

The Electron is made entirely carbon-composite and is designed to carry payloads of 225kg to an elliptical orbit and up to 150kg to a nominal 500km sun synchronous low earth orbit.

It is especially suited to those serving difficult-to-come-by launch destinations, such as mid-inclination orbits for remote sensing satellites.

The Electron vehicle is about to undergo launch testing at Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1, at the tip of the Mahia Peninsula, before it becomes commercially available. The test window falls between May 22 and June 2, where a launch day will be determined by several factors including weather.

Beck said he was incredibly excited about the upcoming test launch.

President of Spaceflight's launch business, Curt Blake, said there were numerous rideshare launches each year to Sun Synchronous Orbit, but getting to 45 degrees to 60 degrees was hard to find and can cost the equivalent of buying an entire rocket.

•Rocket Lab was also this week granted a Federal Aviation Adminitration licence to conduct three test launches from its Mahia launch pad.

- NZ Herald

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