Rocket Lab space launch 'beginning of a new era'

Rutherford Engine – via Rocket Lab

Rutherford Engine – via Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab will have a launch window from 2.30pm on Sunday.

A Rocket Lab Electron booster launches on the company's second test flight, called "Still Testing", from the company's Māhia Peninsula launch site in New Zealand on January 21, 2018 local time.

The dreams of one Rocket Lab customer, in particular, were buoyed by the successful flight of the Electron. Moon Express is the company's most high profile customer. Compared to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, a neck-straining 180-feet tall, the Electron is very small.

In the coming weeks, Rocket Lab engineers would analyse data from the launch. The rocket carried three commercial satellites on this trip: a Dove Earth-imaging satellite for Planet and two Lemur satellites for Spire that track ships and weather.

Meet "it's a Test", Rocket Lab's Electron rocket.

The company's inaugural test last May reached space but didn't make it into orbit after a communication fault forced the flight to be aborted early. The company had the option to fly anytime during four-hour increments each day of the window, but a combination of bad weather and a series of technical challenges prevented the Electron from taking off.

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Then Rocket Lab also had some difficulty getting this second test flight off the ground.

The small-satellite booster lifted off at 2:43 p.m. local time (0143 GMT) from the company's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

The company has become the second in the world to have put something in orbit, and New Zealand the 11th nation.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history.

"Electron is orbital. Successful payload deployment", the company tweeted.

Rocket Lab now has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place in early 2018. Its smaller size is meant to increase affordability and launch flexibility for customers with smaller payloads.

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