Rocket Lab Launches 10 Earth Imaging Satellites

Electron launches with 10 satellites on Oct. 29, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

MAHIA PENINSULA, New Zeland — Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched 10 small satellites into Earth orbit on Wednesday (Thursday local time) from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand.

The “In Focus” rideshare mission orbited nine SuperDove Earth imaging satellites for Planet of San Francisco and a microsatellite with several telescopes aboard for Canon Electronics of Japan.

It was Rocket Lab’s Electron’s 15th launch overall and the fifth flight of the booster in 2020. The company has a record of 13 successes and two failures.

Planet’s nine SuperDove spacecraft were deployed into 500 km (311 mile) high sun synchronous orbits using Rocket Lab’s Maxwell satellite dispensers. They join Planet’s constellation of medium-resolution imaging satellites.

Canon Electronics’ CE-SAT-IIB is a technological demonstration satellite has a middle-sized telescope equipped with an ultra-high sensitivity camera capable of taking night images of the Earth. The spacecraft also has small-size telescopes suitable for CubeSat use.

Unlucky 13: Rocket Lab Electron Launch Fails

Electron’s second stage fires. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Lab’s 13th launch of its Electron booster was unlucky today, with a failure of the second stage sending seven small satellites to burn up in the atmosphere instead of entering orbit after launch from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.

“An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron. The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” the company tweeted.

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Planet Lays Off Dozens of Employees

In February 2014, Planet Labs Inc. launched its first flock of Dove nanosatellites into space. Shown are two shoebox-sized Doves being ejected into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station. The company’s goal is for the flock to take a high-resolution snapshot of nearly the entire globe every 24 hours. (Credit: NASA)

Space News reports the remote-sensing company Planet has laid off up to 38 employees in what the company has called a “shift of focus” from creating the world’s largest constellation of satellites to “developing commercial products and building  successful business” to “more tightly align” with its current goals. Planet said it laid off less than 10 percent of its more than 500 employees.