Rocket Lab Electron rocket reaches orbit with first successful commercial launch


USA and New Zealand spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully completed its first commercial launch called "It's Business Time" on Sunday, sending seven payloads to orbit.

Rocket Lab's "It's Business Time" launch of an Electron Rocket Sunday.

The Electron arced toward the south from Mahia Peninsula, riding almost 22,680kg of thrust from the Rutherford engines during a two-and-a-half minute first stage burn.

It focuses on delivering small payloads, such as research satellites, into orbit at low costs.

The launch marks the start of Rocket Lab's push towards putting a rocket into orbit each week.

The Curie kick stage soared over Antarctica, then flew north over the Atlantic Ocean before igniting its main engine, which burns a "green" non-toxic liquid monopropellant.

The rocket carried the six satellites into orbit amid a new technology demonstrator.

The payloads for the launch today were: two satellites for Australian IoT company Fleet Space; two Spire Global Lemur-2 satellites; the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP) IRVINE01 educational CubeSat; NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmBH; and the Cicero-10 GeoOptics Inc. satellite, built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

It carried seven payloads and was Rocket Lab's first fully commercial mission.

"The world is waking up to the new normal", said Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck, speaking of the triumphant launch.

New Zealand time on Sunday (7:50 p.m. PT Saturday) at Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula.

On board was seven spacecraft, which mostly comprised of small satellites and one drag sail called NABEO, which is created to deorbit inactive, small satellites to help reduce space junk.

Rocket Lab is building small rockets priced at about $5.7 million a launch. "With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites", Beck said in a statement. But Rocket Lab has another launch scheduled for December, as well as 16 launches planned for 2019.

The company aims to produce 100 Rutherford engines in 2018 from its three-acre headquarters and production facility in Huntington Beach, California.