|Founder||Peter Beck |
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, CA,|
|Peter Beck, CEO|
Number of employees
|100 (May 2016)|
Rocket Lab is a US aerospace corporation with a New Zealand subsidiary. Rocket Lab's mission is to develop lightweight, cost-effective commercial rocket launch services. The Electron Program was founded on the premise that small payloads require dedicated small launch vehicles and flexibility not currently offered by traditional rocket systems. Electron, Rocket Lab's lightweight launch vehicle, is designed to service the small satellite market with dedicated, high-frequency launch opportunities. Electron is capable of delivering payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit.
The Electron test program is scheduled to run over the second half of 2016, with commercial flights commencing in 2017 at a starting price of US$4.9 million.
Rocket Lab was founded in 2006 by CEO and CTO Peter Beck. In 2009 Rocket Lab became the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space with the Ātea-1 sounding rocket.
The first launch of the Ātea-1 (Māori for 'space') suborbital sounding rocket occurred in late 2009. The 6-metre (20 ft) long rocket weighing 60 kg is designed to carry a 2 kg payload to an altitude of 120 km. It was intended to carry scientific payloads or possibly personal items.[needs update]
Electron Launch Vehicle
Electron is a two-stage vehicle which uses Rocket Lab's Rutherford liquid engines on both stages. The vehicle is capable of delivering payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit, the target range for the high-growth small satellite market. The projected cost is less than US$5 million per launch.
The Rutherford engine uses pumps that are uniquely powered by battery-powered electric motors rather than a gas generator, expander, or preburner. The engine is also fabricated largely by 3D printing, via electron beam melting, whereby layers of metal powder are melted in a high vacuum by an electron beam rather than a laser. Design capacity is 150 kg to 500 km orbit.
As of April 2016, the 5,000 lbf Rutherford engine for the second stage passed its firing tests; the first three test-flights are planned for mid-2016 from Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island.
After encountering difficulty in obtaining resource consent for the Kaitorete Spit launch site, Rocket Lab announced in November 2015 that its primary launch site would be on the Mahia Peninsula, east of Wairoa on the North Island, New Zealand.
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