New Zealand space venture Rocket Lab has signed Californian satellite startup Astro Digital as a client for its next launch, later this month.
It will be Rocket Lab’s ninth mission from its Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula and 2019’s fifth mission, taking place in a fortnight-long window from October 15.
The company’s 17-metre high Electron rocket uses 3D-printed engines, is made from carbon composite materials and can carry up to 225kg in payload.
Rocket Lab has a tradition of giving its missions funky names, such as “It’s business time” (a reference to the Kiwi comedy duo Flight of the Conchords) and “Look Ma, no hands”. This one is “As The Crow Flies” in a nod to Astro Digital’s Corvus cube satellites designs (Corvus is the bird genus that includes crows).
Astro Digital designs, builds and operates small satellite systems supporting space-based Mission as a Service (MaaS) business applications including earth observation,
communications and various space manufacturing applications.
Rocket Lab’s Senior VP – Global Launch Services, Lars Hoffman, said the latest mission was moved forward in the 2019 launch manifest, after another customer slated for upcoming launch window sought a later date, and the Electron offers flexibility the rideshare rocket model can’t deliver.
“With Electron and our own launch sites, Rocket Lab is uniquely placed to give small satellite operators complete control over their own launch schedule and orbital requirements,” he said.
Rocket Lab has the world’s only private orbital launch range.
New Zealander Peter Beck founded Rocket Lab in 2006 and is the company’s US-based CEO and CTO. In 2009 made it the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space.
The Electron missions began in May 2017 and its customers include NASA, DARPA and the US Airforce Space Test Program.