Rocket Lab has successfully completed its first commercial launch and established a dominant position in the fast-growing market to fly small satellites in orbit.
The company's Electron rocket was launched at 16.45 local time from the company's New Zealand launch site on November 11 with six satellites.
"We are proud to be the leader of the small satellite launch industry by reaching a round second and using more payload," said Peter Beck, CEO.
The electron – about a quarter of SpaceX's 70-meter-long Falcon 9-is designed to load loads weighing 150-225 kg (330 to 496 lb) in orbit around the globe.
This size is no accident: Rocket Lab is ready to get business from dozens of well-funded companies building expansive constellations of small satellites based on powerful miniature electronics.
The Company's closest competitors, including Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit; Vector Launch founded by former SpaceX members; and Firefly Aerospace-now face renewed pressure to get to the orbban.
Rocket Lab was founded in 2008 under the leadership of CEO Peter Beck, headquartered in southern California, and developed as part of a DARPA program to develop small rocket engines to the US military. It won a $ 25 million contribution from New Zealand's government and last year raised $ 75 million from investors in Silicon Valley, which valued the company at $ 1 billion.
In addition to its unique rocket, which saves costs with ultra-light composite materials and a battery-powered turbopump, Rocket Lab is the only private company with its own starting point in New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula. That says Beck, it offers an advantage over other companies that want to offer fast and flexible launch options to satellite makers. The company will also operate 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, set up satellites and wondered about an art project in circulation.
The company's second launch was expected in June, but minor problems with the rocket and then the launcher's radar system led to delays – a typical experience of space operations. Now called "It's Business Time" mission – a jam to another global Kiwi icon – finally marks the company's transition to commercial activity.
"With Electron launch vehicles, fast and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites," said Beck. To prove that, the company's next mission is to launch ten experimental cubes for the NASA Space Agency in December.
Customers of Rocket Lab's latest vehicles included Spire, a company that uses satellites to track ships, planes and weather from orbit. Fleet Space Systems, who hopes to provide communications for the internet by case applications. and student satellites from the University of Irvine. Other Rocket Lab customers include launchers Spaceflight, Kleos Space and Circle Aerospace.