Rocket Lab has launched the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)-19 mission into space from its Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

The ELaNa-19 mission consists of a group of 13 miniature satellites and was conducted under Nasa’s venture class launch services (VCLS) programme.

The launch was conducted onboard a Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle, which took 56 minutes to deploy all satellites into their designated orbits.

During the launch, the Electron rocket first reached an elliptical orbit and then its Curie engine-powered kick stage was separated from the rocket’s second stage, before circularising to a 500kmx500km orbit at an 85° position.

Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said: “The ELaNa-19 mission was a significant one for Nasa, the Rocket Lab team and the small satellite industry overall.

“To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented.”

“To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented.

“It’s exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to be delivering it. Regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites.”

The latest launch represents Rocket Lab’s third orbital mission of this year and the first Nasa CubeSats mission witnessing a dedicated ride by a commercial rocket.

So far this year, the company has launched 24 satellites to orbit.

Nasa ELaNa-19 mission manager Justin Treptow said: “The CubeSats of ELaNa-19 represent a large variety of scientific objectives and technology demonstrations.

“With the first launch of a Venture Class Launch Service on the Rocket Lab Electron, Nasa now has an option to match our small satellite missions with a dedicated small launch vehicle to place these satellites in an optimal orbit to achieve big results.”

Nasa’s Launch Services Programme at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US, currently manages the VCLS programme.