The space industry is going through a renaissance and a handful of companies are leading the way. Rocket Lab, a private aerospace company and small satellite launch service provider, is helping redefine how humans have access to space.
Founded in June 2006 in New Zealand, the company’s headquarters is now based in Long Beach, California, since 2013. It has since developed a sub-orbital sounding rocket called Ātea and has focused on Electron, its lightweight orbital rocket that provides dedicated launches for smallsats and CubeSats. Exciting opportunities are on the horizon for the company going public via a SPAC later this year. Learn more about Rocket Lab and its revolutionary projects:
The Electron is a two-stage launch vehicle and can deliver payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit, which is the target range for today’s burgeoning small satellite market. The project currently costs less than $5 million per launch and is used as part of Rocket Lab’s Rutherford liquid engines on both stages. The engine uses pumps that are battery-powered by electric motors, unique to the industry. The machine is printed out of 3D material and has layers of metal powder melted in a high vacuum by an electron beam.
In 2018, Rocket Lab’s second rocket launched and reached orbit, deploying three CubeSats for Planet Labs and Spire Global customers. Later that year, the first commercial launch of Electron took place, carrying satellites, a prototype of drag sail and a CubeSat built by high school students. In November 2020, another successful launch, “Return to Sender,” was deployed with 29 smallsats. On top of the satellite deployment, the company implemented a new method of the first-stage recovery. In this process, the first-stage reorients itself for reentry after stage separation, then deploys a drogue parachute and a larger parachute before entering the Pacific ocean. In May 2021, the latest launch was successful and utilized this first-stage recovery method, despite being unable to place its payload into orbit.
Announced in March 2021, Rocket Lab is currently developing its new medium-lift launch vehicle called the Neutron, expected to be 130 feet tall and 15 feet diameter fairing. The two-stage human-rated launch vehicle is capable of sending 17,600 lb. payloads to low Earth orbit. The company intends to make the first age reusable with planned landings on a floating landing platform in the ocean. Currently, Rocket Lab is evaluating factory locations across the United States to build the new rocket, while the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia will modify its existing launch pad foundation at Launch Pad 0A. Rocket Lab expects the first launch to occur by 2024 or later.
Learn more about here: Rocket Lab.