New Zealand launches first rocket from private site
US-based company Rocket Lab has conducted the maiden launch of its Electron rocket from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, marking the world’s first orbital launch from a private facility.
It is reported that bad weather had forced Rocket Lab to delay the launch of the battery-powered, 3D-printed Electron rocket three times this week, according to Reuters.
The first of three test flights planned for this year, the launch did not carry any specific payload.
It however was equipped with sensor instruments to provide flight performance information to the engineers, reported BBC.
Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said: “We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point.
“We’ve developed everything in-house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team.
“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business.”
In the upcoming weeks, Rocket Lab’s engineers in Los Angeles, US, and in Auckland, New Zealand, will work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected during the latest test. The results will help optimise the launch vehicle.
Once fully operational, Rocket Lab plans to conduct more than 50 launches a year and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year.
The company has already secured commercial launch contracts for its Electron rocket from Nasa, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.
Image: Rocket Lab launches Electron rocket from New Zealand. Photo: courtesy of Rocket Lab.