A Rocket Lab Electron rocket is on the launch pad at the company's launch facility in New Zealand, before a test flight . The launch window will open on December 8, 2017.
Credit: Rocket Lab
The space flight venture Rocket Lab scheduled the second test flight of its innovative Electron rocket, a small vehicle built to accommodate small satellites and other small payloads.
The 10-day launch window will open on December 8 and will take place at the Rocket Lab private launch facility on the Mahia peninsula in New Zealand, the company announced today (November 29). The launch, titled "Still Testing," will be broadcast live on the company's website, according to the statement.
Despite its test status, the rocket will be carried and, if everything works according to the plan, it will deploy four customer satellites. The load will include two Dove satellites with terrestrial images (each the size of a loaf of bread) for the private company Planet (formerly Planet Labs) and two Lemur-2 satellites for the private company Spire, which uses Earth observation satellites for climate mapping and vessel traffic tracking, according to the Rocket Lab release. [Satellite Quiz: How Well Do You Know What’s Orbiting Earth?]
The first Rocket Lab test flight of an Electron rocket took place on May 25, after being delayed several days due to bad weather. Peter Beck, CEO and founder of the company, said in the statement that the company "is still operating a lot in a test phase and is likely to have a few technicians during the second flight test attempt."
During the first launch of the electron test, the third stage of the rocket failed to reach its planned altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers). However, the company said at the time that it had no plans to delay the launch of the second test (which was initially scheduled for the summer of 2017). In August, Rocket Lab issued a statement saying that a review of the May 27 release "discovered that the launch should be canceled due to a ground equipment problem from an independent contractor, rather than a problem with the rocket" .
pleased with Electron's performance on the first test flight, and now we are eager to test the next crucial step: the implementation of the payload, "Beck said in the statement." No major changes have been required in the launch vehicle hardware, third-party error was corrected which meant we did not orbit, and we're focusing on all six Electron vehicles in production right now. "
The Electron rocket, which is located at about 55 feet (17 meters) high and has a nominal load capacity of 330 lbs. (150 kilograms), it was built mainly to adapt to the emerging industry of small satellites, said Beck to Space.com last year. Most rockets can usually carry loads of many thousands of pounds, which means that customers with small loads have to "charge" on those flights. With its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab aims to provide customers with more control over the timing, frequency and destination of flights, Beck said.
Rocket Lab is not the only company looking for a small-scale launch vehicle. One of Rocket Lab's main competitors is Virgin Orbit (formerly part of Virgin Galactic), which plans to begin test flights of its launch system for small LauncherOne satellites in 2018 and can fly its first user loads before 2019. Another company , Vector Space Systems, is working on its Vector-R rocket, which has a payload capacity even lower than the electron. Vector completed a test flight at low rocket height earlier this year.