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Home / Science / NASA, Rocket Lab partner on successful satellite launch from New Zealand – Spaceflight Now

NASA, Rocket Lab partner on successful satellite launch from New Zealand – Spaceflight Now



The Rocket Lab's Electron Booster started on Sunday at 13:33 EST (0633 GMT; 19:33 New Zealand time) and brought 13 CubeSats built in the US to a NASA-chartered mission on Sunday the orbit. Credit: Trevor Mahlmann / Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab's commercial electron booster shot out of New Zealand on Sunday in orbit. He carried 13 CubeSats on the company's first mission chartered by NASA and ended a milestone year for the launch of the new Smallsat. The provider as Rocket Lab intends to increase its flight rate to at least one a month in 2019.

The 17-meter-high electron rocket propelled by Kerosene-powered Rutherford main engines with 3D printed pumps was launched by Launch Complex 1 at Rocket Lab's Rocket Lab on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island at 1:33 am EST ( 0633 GMT; 19:33 New Zealand Time) on Sunday.

The rocket's nine first engines propelled the machine southward to Electron Launcher, with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust throttled to full power as the rocket climbed into the stratosphere to land two and a half minutes into the Pacific Ocean call.

A second stage with a sin The Rutherford engine lit up to reach a tentative park orbit about nine minutes after the flight, and a fluid kicking stage split, rolling across the Antarctic and firing its Curie engine for a planned one 90 seconds of combustion to inject the mission's 13 CubeSat payloads into a nearly circular orbit about 500 kilometers above the earth, with a ground track inclined 85 degrees to the equator.

Rocket Lab announced that all 13 CubeSats deployed from the kick stage, as well as company founder and CEO Peter Beck called it a "perfect mission" on Twitter.

The US New Zealand company has a privately owned launch and assembly center in New Zealand, as well as a head office and an engine factory located in Southern California. The launch on Sunday was the Rocket Lab's third successful flight of the year – and the second in five weeks – after a test flight that had not reached orbit in May 2017, but many of the key systems of the Electron rocket had tested.

The Nanosatellites launched Sunday from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, the Glenn Research Center and the Langley Research Center, as well as the US Naval Academy and educational institutions in California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico, and West Virginia. There are also CubeSats from Aerospace Corp. based in Southern California and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the Department of Defense's research and development department.

Officials delayed the launch of Wednesday night improved weather conditions in New Zealand.

Ten of the CubeSats launched on Sunday are part of the NASA program "Educational Launch of Nanosatellites" (ELaNa). "

" The ELaNa 19 mission was for NASA, the Rocket Lab team, and the small satellite industry as a whole, "said Beck. "Starting two missions just five weeks apart and the first year of orbital flights is unprecedented. It's exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to deliver it. A regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites. The wait is finally over.

"We give small satellite customers more control than ever before, so they can launch their own precise lanes as often as they need," Beck said.

The Electron Missile is sized to tow small satellites into orbit, and it is the first in a wave of new light commercial commercial launchers to enter service.

The CeREs CubeSat or Compact Radiation Belt Explorer is loaded into the Rocket Lab's bins in Huntington Beach, California. Credit: NASA

Like its competitors in the market for small launches, Rocket Lab says it can enable CubeSats and microsatellites to make a dedicated trip into orbit at a reasonable price per flight. Smallsats were formerly launched as secondary payloads, usually at the whim of the missile's main aviation fuel, forcing the Smatsats' owners to compromise on orbital parameters such as pitch and altitude that could compromise the commercial value of a space mission scientific mission.

Rocket Lab's first launch pad is in New Zealand, but the company is building a second station at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport of the Wallops Flight Facility at NASA in Virginia. Headquartered in Huntington Beach, California, Rocket Lab builds engines and avionics for the Electron vehicle. The Auckland site hosts the mission control center, the company's tank production, and Electron's final assembly hall.

"It's great because we now have our own vehicle class that focuses on the small arena," said Garrett Skrobot. a senior mission manager of the NASA Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center, which oversees the launch of the agency's science missions. "For me, it's the door to many new adventures for the small payload class and the community. It's not just us that also consider the other government agencies. The commercial market is watching it. "

With the increasing development of space technology, miniaturized components enable Smalsats fleets to carry out missions that once required larger spacecraft that are more expensive to build and launch. Companies such as Planet and Spire are using CubeSats for Earth imaging, weather forecasting, and aircraft and ship tracking, and large space constellations of relatively small refrigerator-sized communication satellites are being planned by SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, and others.

Take a look at how many swarms (Earth Observing CubeSats) are up there from Planet, and we saw other people hang them up, "Skrobot said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. "And the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) licenses for many of the upcoming major constellations."

NASA launched the Venture Class Launch Services program to test the waters of the emerging small market and sign the space agency The first three VCLS launch contracts with Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and Firefly Space Systems in 2015.

The Rocket Lab is the first of the group to be ready for a NASA mission. The LauncherOne LauncherOne rocket fired by Virgin Orbit is scheduled for its first orbital test flight in early 2019, and NASA plans to deploy a fleet of CubeSats for a subsequent LauncherOne mission next year.

NASA terminated the contract with Firefly Space Systems when the company announced it could not meet its contractual obligations. The Texas-based company later merged but regained ownership and name – Firefly Aerospace – and renewed its launcher development efforts.

"There are delays in every missile development," Skrobot said. "They encounter problems and concerns when developing their vehicle. We understood that. This is more if we develop the vehicle for the future than for the CubeSats. Yes, we want the CubeSats to be successful. However, from a programmatic perspective for the Agency, it should be ensured that this new function is available to our Science Mission directorate or Technology Directorate and that it is possible to launch their missions into space at a reasonable cost. "

NASA used a pragmatic approach with clients of Venture Class Launch Services, a move from agency supervision to start-up companies worth paying for more expensive satellites in space providers such as United Launch Alliance and SpaceX ,

A team of engineers, managers and technicians at the Rocket Lab launch pad in New Zealand told Skrobot that NASA had dispatched a KSC employee.

"The whole concept behind it is that it's an FAA licensed (commercial) launch Keep the crews very small so we do not have much insight and visibility," Skrobot said. "So we sent one person, an integration engineer / mission manager, who went down there, and we have a contractor assisting the spacecraft."

Rocket Lab's launch agreement with NASA for the Sunday flight was estimated at 6, $ 9 million, more than an order of magnitude less than what the space agency pays for launches on larger rockets.

The electron rocket can carry up to 150 kilograms of payload in a polar orbit about 500 kilometers in length) above the earth. The capacity of the rocket to a lower orbit is up to 225 kg.

"They can be slightly higher (cost) per kilogram, but we have a dedicated vehicle," Skrobot said about the new start of the smallsat provider. At the moment we are considering flying payloads on ESPA rings (secondary payload). That is very good. However, each of these ESPA ring payloads must go to orbit into which the primary payload is moving or slightly lower. Slope changes are very difficult.

"Although we pay slightly more per kilogram (with Venture Class Launch Services), these smaller payloads now have the ability to get into the exact orbit they really need to get as much science as possible for each orbit win, they want. They could fly with an ESPA (Second Payload Ring), but now they may get more science that they will have their own vehicles in the future, "said Skrobot.

The ELaNa 19 mission, launched on Sunday was the first dedicated mission for NASA's CubeSat launcher – which helped launch Skrobot ten years ago – following a series of past CubeSat missions that included trips aboard Dragon and Cygnus supply vessels to the International Space Station (ISS) and Secondary payload on Antares, Atlas 5, Delta, 2, Falcon 9, and Minotaur rockets.

NASA typically adopts proposals from CubeSat developers to US universities and research institutions every year, and then funds the launch of the best Projects The cost of starting CubeSats can sometimes exceed or even exceed the cost of constructing the spacecraft itself

The 310-mile mission on Sunday's Electron mission will enable the CubeSats, which weigh in at around 1.5 kg. to more than 15 kilograms (7 kilograms) to stay in orbit longer than they were discharged from the space station, due to the decreased atmospheric resistance at higher altitudes.

The CubeSail nanosatellite, which is actually made up of two space probes connected to it An awning band is prepared for launch this year at Rocket Lab's payload processing facility in Huntington Beach, California. Credit: NASA

"Some of the CubeSats prefer to move away from the ISS, these are faster and easier, but they have to live with less inclination and less height. They'll probably take six months or a year, as these guys are going to take a little longer here, "Skrobot said.

The CubeSats launched aboard the Electron rocket by NASA's ELaNa program are: [19659039] ALBus a three-unit CubeSat from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will test CubeSat's high power density technology and use of solar arrays and antennas using resettable shape memory alloy mechanisms.

  • CeREs ] Also known as the Compact Radiation Belt Explorer, a 3-unit CubeSat from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, CeREs will investigate the radiation belt and investigate how electrons are excited and lost, especially in microburst events – When sudden electron swarms pour into the atmosphere, so does NASA.
  • CHOMPTT as well CubeSat Handling of Multisystem known Precision Time Transfer Mission is a CubeSat with 3 units from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. CHOMPTT tests time-sharing technology with integrated atomic clocks that are synchronized with a bottom clock using a laser signal. Time transmission is useful for satellite navigation applications.
  • CubeSail consists of two interconnected 1.5-unit CubeSats, which once separate in orbit and unwind a 250-meter sun-sails between the two spacecraft. The CubeSail experiment was developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to test novel approaches to using awnings as propulsion systems.
  • DaVinci is a CubeSat with 3 units of the STEM Charter Academy of North Idaho in Rathdrum, Idaho. DaVinci was designed primarily as a teaching tool for Idaho students, but the spacecraft also has a camera and will test satellite-to-satellite Internet communication through the Globalstar network.
  • ISX or the Ionospheric Scintillation Explorer CubeSat with 3 units, developed by SRI International and Cal Poly of San Luis Obispo, California. ISX will study plasma imperfections in the upper atmosphere by measuring its impact on ground-based digital television signals.
  • NMTSat is a CubeSat with 3 units of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico. NMTSat carries instruments to gather data about the earth's magnetic field and plasma density at high altitude, perform atmospheric weather measurements, and conduct an experiment with optical beacons.
  • RSat is a three-part CubeSat of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The RSat spacecraft includes two miniature mobile robot arms that are being tested in orbit to assess their suitability for engagement with other satellites in orbit for inspection and repair.
  • Shields 1 is a CubeSat from NASA, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Shields 1 will test new radiation shielding technologies that could be used on future small satellites.
  • STF 1 or Simulation-to-Flight 1 is a 3-unit CubeSat that was developed in collaboration by NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program, West Virginia University and West Virginia Small Business. STF 1 is the first West Virginia-built spacecraft to serve as a testbed for new satellite software that can be developed on any laptop or desktop computer.
  • "ElaNa 19's CubeSats represent a multitude of scientific opportunities, goals, and technology demonstrations," said Justin Treptow, NASA's ELaNa 19 mission manager. "With the launch of a Rocket Lab Electron venture-class launch service, NASA now has the option of combining our small satellite missions with a special small carrier vehicle to bring these satellites into optimal orbit for great results achieve." [19659003] In addition to the 10 CubeSats launched as part of NASA's ELaNa program, three more nanosatellites flew into orbit on Sunday for the electron rocket. NASA also provided a launch opportunity for:

    • AeroCube 11 consists of two nearly identical CubeSats with three units built by Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, California. The two CubeSats of the AeroCube 11 mission, TOMSat EagleScout and TOMSat R3 will test miniaturized imagers. One of the CubeSats has a Pushbroom imager to collect vegetation data for comparison with the much larger operational land imager aboard the Landsat satellite series. The other TOMSat CubeSat has a focal plane array on board to take pictures of Earth, Moon, and Moon stars.
    • SHFT 2 also known as the Space-Based High Frequency Testbed, is a three-unit CubeSat owned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and developed in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The CubeSat, which will be launched with Rocket Lab, is the second JPL-developed satellite, according to DARPA spokesman Jared Adams. He will study variations in ionosphere plasma density by collecting radio-frequency radio signals, including signals from natural background galactic emissions. of Jupiter and transmitters on earth.
    An in-depth test version of the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket is undergoing captured test flights under the wing of the company's modified Boeing 747 carrier aircraft. Credit: Virgin Orbit

    The Rocket Lab Electron Vehicle joins the "NASA Catalog" of available launchers.

    Currently, NASA has no further missions at Rocket Lab, but the Electron Rocket will be among the possible launch options for the future Explorer class of agency opportunity missions, a family of science missions at a cost usually $ 55 million.

    A document updated on December 10 has been attached to a draft for a new draft The NASA Explorer Opportunity Opportunities proposals include a listing of the Rocket Lab Electron and the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne as potential missiles for missions that have a dedicated launch require.

    "We offer these in our opportunity missions. As you will see, when we publish our opportunity missions for our SMEX AOs or our MIDEX AOs (small and medium exploration missions), you will see a section for missions with these types of vehicles. "[19659003]" We have Virgin and Rocket Lab in what we call our catalog, and the catalog identifies all options for small payloads. Whether it's a CubeSat flying in a deployer and flying on our EELV (Atlas 5, Delta 4 or Falcon 9) vehicles on an ESPA, we also have Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit and opportunities there.

    "There is still some risk with Virgin (Orbit) because they have not flown yet, so we keep that in mind and we tell our customers that as soon as we fly, we will have more data and we will give them a better insight. But now with Rocket Lab online … we can offer it to our NASA customers. "

    Rocket Lab to Increase Launch Rate

    Rocket Lab plans to raise the launch date next year to an average of at least one mission per month, with the goal of every two weeks to start by the end of 2019.

    In an October interview, Beck said that Rocket Lab had scheduled up to 16 launches in 2019, including the first flight from a new launch pad in Wallops Island, Virginia.

    "Our goal is to start once every two weeks at the end of next year, and when we start 2020 we will start once a week." Beck said in October. "We have a fairly large customer pipeline and we were very happy that people put their trust in us. For us, we make sure that we do everything we can to bring the payloads of these customers into orbit.

    In a statement released on Sunday, Rocket Lab says the next electron rocket should be on the launch pad in New Zealand in January. The company has not announced a launch date for the mission nor has it announced which satellites will board the next launch.

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    Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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