Rocket Lab delivered its first Electron vehicle to Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 late last night marking the beginning of pre-flight checkouts.
The rocket was trucked to the Mahia Peninsula from Rocket Lab’s Auckland facility.
“It’s an important milestone for our team and for the space industry. In the past, it’s been countries that go to space, not companies,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO. “Through the innovative use of new technologies our team has created a launch vehicle designed for manufacture at scale. Our ultimate goal is to change our ability to access space.”
“Since we commenced this project three years ago, our team has accomplished an incredible amount – the vehicle has gone through rigorous qualification and acceptance testing, Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 has been completed and major tracking infrastructure has been installed in remote locations.”
Over the coming weeks, a series of tests and checkouts will be conducted at the site before the rocket, named It’s a Test, is signed-off to fly.
“We put it out to our team to name the vehicle,” said Beck. “We wanted to acknowledge the intensive research and development Electron has undergone and that continues with these test flights.”
The launch, which will be the first orbital launch attempt from New Zealand, is the first of three planned tests before Rocket Lab begins providing customers commercial satellite launches.
Moon Express has announced that it has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round from Founders Fund, Autodesk and Collaborative Fund.
The company says it is fully funded to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year. The flight will be an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize for the first privately built vehicle to land on the moon and travel 500 meters across the surface. There is a $5 million prize for the second team to achieve the goal.
Moon Express’ spacecraft will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Rocket Lab expects to launch the Electron on its first flight test in February.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
Video Caption: Rocket Lab has completed qualification and acceptance testing of Electron’s first stage booster. Completion of the tests marks the final major technical milestone ahead of first test launch of the Electron vehicle.
LOS ANGELES, December 13, 2016 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab today announced the flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster of the Electron launch vehicle.
All primary components of the stage – including engines, vehicle structures, avionics and software systems – were designed, developed and tested in-house at Rocket Lab.
“Rocket Lab has had a hugely successful year with qualification of all major vehicle systems, completion of Launch Complex 1 and considerable growth of our team and customer base,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO.
“We will continue to test the vehicle extensively in the lead-up to commercial operations and are looking forward to beginning the test flight program. Our focus with the Electron has been to develop a reliable launch vehicle that can be manufactured in high volumes – our ultimate goal is to make space accessible by providing an unprecedented frequency of launch opportunities.”
Rocket Lab plans to begin full vehicle testing in early 2017 once international launch licensing is complete. The tests will occur from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, located on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.
NASA officials have been providing updates this week on agency programs and missions during the 2016 Small Satellite Conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it. I have pulled together summaries of their presentations drawn from Twitter. Information has come from the following Tweeters:
The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.
LOGAN, Utah (Rocket Lab PR) — In a move to make space more accessible, Rocket Lab has released a system for booking satellite launches online.
The system, announced today at the SmallSat conference in Utah, enables CubeSat customers to request a booking on Rocket Lab’s Electron, selecting a date, destination and even allowing them to select their position on the rocket.
“In addition to affordable and frequent launch, making space accessible means giving customers information about what they can launch, when they can launch it, and how much it’s going to cost,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. “Previously, this information has been widely difficult to access and the booking process was often cumbersome – now you can do this on your phone.”
LOS ANGELES (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab has signed a Commercial Space Launch Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The agreement enables Rocket Lab to use NASA resources – including personnel, facilities and equipment – for launch efforts.
Rocket Lab is considering using NASA’s launch complexes to complement Rocket Lab’s primary launch range in New Zealand.
New Zealand firm Rocket Lab plans to launch its battery powered rockets from Birdlings Flat in Canterbury.
The company has lodged resource consent applications to build a launch pad – about half the size of a tennis court – and hopes to launch a test vehicle late this year.
The company’s chief executive, Peter Beck said the area met all the firm’s requirements; a sparse population, a launch path over the ocean and proximity to a city where the 18m tall Electron Rockets can be built.
And there have been rockets launched before from Birdlings Flat about 44km southeast of Christchurch.