Rocket Lab has successfully launched an upgraded Electron rocket carrying several payloads for commercial operators. The rocket utilized a next-generation first stage packed with new hardware and sensors that will aid future recovery efforts.
The Electron rocket carrying the 7 commercial satellites was launched from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula at 08:19 UTC. Approximately 9 minutes after liftoff, the Kick Stage successfully separated from the rocket’s second stage.
After a 40-minute coast phase, the Curie engine powering the Kick Stage was ignited to position the stage for a precise payload deployment. Ten minutes later, the first of two sets of payloads were successfully deployed into orbit, with the second set to follow approximately 90 minutes later.
Rocket Lab’s rocket recovery and reuse efforts
In August, Rocket Lab announced plans to begin recovering and reusing the first stage of its Electron rocket. Efforts towards this endeavor began in June with the launch of an Electron rocket carrying critical instrumentation and experiments. This launch provided the data Rocket Lab needed to confirm that a non-propulsive recovery was possible.
Following the launch in June and the announcement of recovery plans, Rocket Lab launched the Look Ma, No Hands mission. This mission carried “Brutus”, an advanced data recorder system. Data from the system was used to validate reentry models created following the June launch.
Once the reentry models were validated, Rocket Lab moved ahead with plans to upgrade the Electron rocket’s first stage. This morning’s Running Out of Fingers mission was the maiden flight of the upgraded first stage.
The next step, according to August 6 Rocket Lab press release is the first recovery attempt, designated “Flight N”. It is currently not clear when the launch provider will attempt this mission.