July 14, 2024
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Rocket Lab successfully launches its 50th electron rocket – Spaceflight Now

A close-up of the nine Rutherford engines at the base of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket. The flight marked the 50th Electron launch since its debut in 2017. Image: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab successfully reached a milestone that few commercial rockets have achieved, and at a pace that surpassed its competition. The company launched its 50th Electron rocket to date just seven years after the vehicle's debut in May 2017.

Instantaneous liftoff from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula occurred at 6:13 a.m. NZST on Friday, June 21 (2:13 p.m. EDT, 1813 UTC on Thursday, June 20).

On board the rocket were five satellites from the French Internet of Things company, Kinéis. This was the company's first of five dedicated flights to deploy its full constellation, comprised of 25 satellites. All five of this flight were successfully deployed.

The satellites will orbit at a 98-degree inclination and the five satellites will be deployed “in a precise sequence, individually and in pairs, to build the constellation exactly how Kináis needs it,” according to Rocket Lab.

The golden release

The launch of Rocket Lab comes at a time of great activity for the company, which aims to become an end-to-end space company. That includes multiple upcoming missions for U.S. agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the U.S. Space Force, as well as preparation for a planetary mission to Mars with Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket as a trip to space.

Ahead of Electron's 50th launch, Sir Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, said he and his team are immensely proud to have reached this milestone when they did.

“Of all the commercially developed rockets in the world, Electron reached 50, we did it in the shortest time possible. So we scaled to 50 faster than anyone else, faster than the Falcon 9, faster than Pegasus, faster than anything else commercially available,” Beck said. “And that's a really hard thing to do because whether it's a giant rocket or a small rocket, the scale element is the same and it's super, super difficult.”

A chart of commercially developed orbital-class rockets and how quickly they reached or approached 50 launches. Graphic: Rocket Laboratory

Beck said many of the Electron rockets flying today are quite similar to the rockets that started their orbital launch business. He said that in addition to their successes, they have also taken away a lot of their failures.

“I prefer not to think about that because they are very devastating moments. They are incredibly painful. And yes, it is true that after those moments, you build a better vehicle,” Beck said. “But I always remind the team to never, ever be happy, because if you're happy, the rocket gods will come down with a baseball bat and let you know who's in charge.

“That's why we always strive to improve the vehicle. We take every opportunity we can to improve it or make it more reliable. And that's just the harsh reality of spaceflight: it's incredibly difficult.”

He noted that they continue to book more and more Electron flights each year as they move forward with the program and prepare to bring the larger, reusable Neutron rocket to market in mid-2025. But he said their launch pace will continue to be boosted. by customer demand.

A recoverable Electron rocket lifts off from New Zealand's North Island with the Acadia 1 satellite for Capella Space. Image: Rocket Laboratory.

“Any CEO will say they want to see you scale vertically, right? The reality is that we scale with the demand of our clients. And customer demand changes all the time, depending on geopolitical circumstances, where people are when building their constellations and everything else,” Beck said.

“What I will say is that this year we sold more electrons than we have ever sold before and next year is shaping up to be the same. So we certainly expect product expansion to continue, but it is purely driven by market demand.”

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