US-based aerospace company Rocket Lab has launched the test flight of its Electron orbital vehicle, Still Testing, from Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand.

Still Testing carried a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, in addition to two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and vessel tracking company Spire.

The inaugural Electron test was carried out on 25 May last year.

“Rocket Lab was founded on the principle of opening access to space to better understand our planet and improve life on it. Today, we took a significant step towards that.”

After reaching orbit, Electron deployed customer payloads at 8min and 31s after lift-off, following the completion of first and second-stage burns.

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Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said: “Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket programme is almost unprecedented.

“Rocket Lab was founded on the principle of opening access to space to better understand our planet and improve life on it. Today, we took a significant step towards that.”

Following the test flight, the data from the latest launch will be evaluated by Rocket Lab engineers to inform future launches.

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The company currently has five Electron vehicles in production. The next launch is expected to take place early this year.

Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year at full production, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year.