Rocket Lab's delayed "It's Business time" rocket launch has been rescheduled for next month, this time with an increased payload of mini satellites that will clean up space junk.
United States-based orbital launch provider Rocket Lab confirmed the new 14-day launch window for the upcoming It's Business Time mission would commence from June 23, with daily launch opportunities between 12.30pm and 4.30pm.
The original launch window was slated for April 20 but was moved after unusual behaviour was identified in a motor controller during a wet dress rehearsal at Rocket Lab's launch facility at Onenui Station at Mahia.
A statement from Rocket Lab said the additional time was used to review data, identify the cause of the issue and put corrective measures in place.
During that timetwo additional customers were added to the launch manifest.
The new payloads would include IRVINE01, an educational payload from the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP), and NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmBH.
The NABEO drag sail is a system created to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites. The small sail is an ultra-thin membrane that can be coiled up tightly within a spacecraft and then deployed once the satellite reaches the end of its orbital lifespan.
The reflective panels unfold to 2.5sq m to increase the spacecraft's surface area, causing it to experience greater drag and pull the satellite back into the Earth's atmosphere, enabling much faster de-orbiting and reducing the amount of space junk in Low Earth Orbit.
The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is a joint educational endeavour to teach, train and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. It is comprised of students from six different American high schools (Beckman, Irvine, Northwood, Porto la, University, and Woodbridge) in the city of Irvine , California, and powered by private sector donation through Irvine Public Schools Foundation.
The students' main objective is to assemble, test and launch a nano-satellite into low Earth orbit.
A low-resolution camera would take pictures of Venus, stars and other celestial objects. Data from these images can be used to calculate distances to stars and determine pointing accuracy and stability of the satellite.
The new payloads join existing It's Business Time customers, including two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire Global and a GeoOptics Inc. satellite, built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.
The Lemur-2 cubesats would be used to provide commercial ship-tracking and weather monitoring services.
Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said the addition of new payloads to the mission manifest highlighted Rocket Lab's ability to respond rapidly to customer demand in an ever-evolving small satellite market.
"Rocket Lab's responsive space model is crucial to support the exponential growth of the small satellite market. That a customer can come to us seeking a ride to orbit and we can have them booked to launch in weeks is unheard of in the launch business."
The mission would be the company's first fully-commercial launch, following two previous test launches from Hawke's Bay.