US space developer Rocket Lab sets a new date for the first commercial launch

The US space flight company Rocket Lab has scheduled new dates for its first commercial launch of rockets, a mission called "It's Business Time." The company plans to launch its small rocket, the Electron, between June 23 and July 6. The rocket will take off from Rocket Lab's New Zealand launch pad and bring five small satellites into orbit for customers, kicking off a busy year of business operations for the launch provider.

Originally, Rocket Lab expected to perform this mission in April, but the company had to postpone after it noticed some strange behavior with the rocket. After propping up the electron on the launch pad and filling it with fuel, the engineering team discovered that a critical engine responsible for controlling the pumps inside the engines was acting fun. So Rocket Lab decided to retire to find out what was causing the problem. "It has been very difficult to determine the root cause," says Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck The Verge . "It was not particularly obvious."

After a few months, Beck says the company has deciphered it and made some changes to the vehicle to make sure the engine is working properly. During the suspension, Rocket Lab He decided to add a couple more satellites to the manifest for It's Business Time. Originally, this mission would only send two small Lemur-2 satellites manufactured by Spire Global, as well as another probe made by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems. Now, it will also include a research satellite built by students and a special test satellite that will demonstrate a flat, reflective candle. The technology will help the probe to be dragged to Earth faster, helping clear space satellites when they are done with their missions.

This will be the third launch of the Rocket Lab electronic vehicle. The company made two successful test launches, one in May last year and one in January, before deciding to move to commercial flights. During the first test launch, the rocket reached space, but did not reach the orbit due to a failure in the communications equipment on the ground. The second test, however, reached the orbit and deposited three satellites, as well as a disco ball sphere made by Beck himself. Originally, Rocket Lab had planned to conduct a third test flight, but decided that it had gathered enough data with its two tests to start commercial operations.

Earth seen from the Electron of Rocket Lab.
Image: Rocket Lab [19659008] Once this commercial flight takes off, Beck argues that Rocket Lab has a couple of years ahead. "There is no space available in 2018, and we are putting more flights in 2019 to allow more space," says Beck. The next flight after It & # 39; s Business Time will be one for NASA, sending 11 small standardized satellites called CubeSats.

The objective of Rocket Lab is to be a dedicated launcher of small satellites. That's why your main rocket is not very big. The Electron is only 55 feet tall and is capable of placing between 330 and 500 pounds of cargo in low Earth orbit. In comparison, the SpaceX Falcon 9 is 230 feet tall and can place 50,000 pounds in the same orbit. The idea of ​​Rocket Lab is to take advantage of the small satellite revolution, in which manufacturers make spacecraft smaller and faster than ever. To that end, Rocket Lab also hopes to put the satellites in orbit as quickly as possible, eventually reaching a point where the company can launch every 72 hours.

It will be some time before that happens, but Rocket Lab's private platform in New Zealand is licensed to be launched every three days. For now, the company is focused on reaching one launch per month by the end of the year. "We will get to one per month pretty fast, but even the time it takes us to go from a full test flight to a commercial one, from the industry's point of view, is very fast," says Beck.

Rocket Lab plans to live -Introduce the launch of It's Business Time, and the company will give updates on a more specific release date closer to June 23. Rocket Lab has the option to open each day of the window between 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in New Zealand. Follow the Rocket Lab Twitter account to discover where and when to look at the Electron flight.

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