Startup Rocket Lab Delivers Seven Payloads to Orbit

After failed attempts six months ago the company is having another go at launching its Electron rocket

ROCKET LABAfter failed attempts six months ago the company is having another go at launching its Electron rocket

With the world's first private spaceport was made a purely commercial launch of a rocket into space.

The Electron rocket also carried a so-called "drag sail" technology demonstration, which is created to pull old, inactive satellites down into Earth's atmosphere where they burn up and reduce the amount of space junk in orbit.

Rocket Lab has launched its first rocket taking only commercial satellite cargo from its launch pad on the Mahia Peninsula.

On a late Sunday afternoon in New Zealand, Rocket Lab successfully launched its third rocket.

The mission, called It's Business Time (It's time for business), was postponed several times due to technical and weather problems.

The launch was commanded and monitored from the Mission Control Centre in Rocket Lab's new Mount Wellington factory, which was opened by Star Trek actor William Shatner and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month.

The Electron - which is about a quarter the size of SpaceX's 230ft (70m) tall Falcon 9 - released the payload about 45 minutes after the launch.

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The Electron will also carry a "drag sail" demonstrator, which is created to prove out technology to help deorbit defunct satellites more quickly and efficiently.

Rocket Lab is building small rockets priced at about $5.7 million a launch. The two-stage version has a height of 17m and a diameter of 1.2m, and is powered by Rutherford engines. NASA is one of the other companies who have already signed up for future launches. IRVINE01, as it is called, is also the first satellite that will have Accion Systems' electrospray thrust modules, tiny modular things that are highly efficient and flawless for small craft, according to Tech Crunch.

On the live webcast of the launch, Rocket Lab touted the last-minute adds to its manifest as an indication of its ability to get to space quickly.

The company's nearest competitors in the small rocket sector, including Virgin Orbit and Stratolaunch, now face even more pressure to get into orbit. The first successful test of the Electron rocket came in January of this year.

Sunday's Rocket Lab mission included payloads for customers like Spire Global, which collects data about ships and planes around the globe, and Fleet Space Technologies, which aims to connect remote devices to the internet.

These smaller rockets should help reduce launch wait times from 18 to 24 months or more, at the bigger companies, to a mere six months.

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