US aerospace corporation RocketLab successfully launched its Electron rocket from a site in New Zealand, thus becoming the first company to have ever launched an orbital-class rocket from a private launch site.
The rocket, which is powered by an engine made almost entirely using 3D printing, lifted-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand and reached space on May 25.
“It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team. We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point. We’ve developed everything in house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team,” said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab.
“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business,”
According to the company, its engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand will now work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected over the course of the fight, with the results to be used to optimise the vehicle.
“We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come,” Mr Beck added.
“We’re committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey. The applications doing this will open up are endless. Known applications include improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services.”
RocketLab, which has further two test flights scheduled for this year, said it will be aiming to get to orbit on the second test and to maximise the payload the rocket can carry.
“At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the United States, and 82 internationally,” the company said in a statement.
“Rocket Lab’s commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.”