New Zealand has joined the ranks of nations launching orbital vehicles with Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. The launch provider’s “Still Testing” vehicle lifted off from one of the most beautiful launch sites in the world on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 01:43 GMT (14:43 local time) on Jan. 21.
The launch of Rocket Lab’s second Electron rocket has been fraught with delays. The launch had been scheduled for the middle of December 2017 but vehicle faults, bad weather and rouge ships ate away at the launch window. After being rescheduled to January 2018, Rocket Lab had to again scrub the launch due to a rogue ship and technical issues on the first day of the new launch window. However, on the second day, the stars finally aligned for the budding launch provider and the team pulled off a flawless launch.
“Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is almost unprecedented,” explained Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “Our incredibly dedicated and talented team have worked tirelessly to develop, build and launch Electron. I’m immensely proud of what they have achieved today.”
“Still Testing” launched with a Dove Pioneer Earth imaging satellite and a pair of Lemur-2 satellites aboard. Once in orbit, the vehicle successfully deployed the three small satellites completing its first commercial mission.
Following the successful launch, Rocket Lab revealed in a press release that they have already secured contracts with NASA, Spire, Planet and Spaceflight. The launch provider has also secured a contract with Moon Express that could potentially see the Electron becoming the smallest vehicle to ever launch a lunar mission.
Image Credit: Rocket Lab