WASHINGTON – A Rocket Lab Electron rocket successfully launched a group of cubesats Dec.
The Electron rocket lifted off the company's Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula at 1:33 am. Eastern. The rocket is a kick stage containing the 13 satellites into orbit nine minutes after launch. About 40 minutes, later, the kick stage ignited for a 90-second burn, after which the satellites were placed in 500-kilometer circular orbits at an inclination of 85 degrees.
"All payloads deployed !! Perfect mission, "Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, was tweeted after the satellites were deployed.
NASA purchased the launch of its CubeSat Launch Initiative program, which provides launches for academic institutions and NASA centers. This particular flight, known as the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) 1
satellite development to those testing advanced technologies. RSat, developed at the U.S. Naval Academy, wants to test robotic arms planned for future satellite-servicing spacecraft. CubeSat, from the University of Illinois, wants to test soil sail technology. NASA's Glenn Research Center wants to demonstrate new power systems and solar array deployment technologies.
The launch of three satellites in addition to the 10 that were part of ELaNa-19. Two of the satellites, collectively known as AeroCube 11, were developed by the Aerospace Corporation to test advanced imaging technologies. The Third, Space-Based High Frequency Testbed 2, which was developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to demonstrate using high-frequency radio signals to study the ionosphere.
NASA awarded Rocket Lab a contract for the launch in October 2015 through its Venture Class Launch Services program, at effort to develop dedicated launch services for cubesats and other smallsats. Previous ELaNa missions all used secondary payload, or rideshare, accommodations on NASA and other government launches, reducing the control they had over schedule and orbit.
"Matching ELaNa-19 with the Electron rocket gives these advanced scientific and educational satellites first- NASA's missions in the future, said Justin Treptow, NASA's ELaNa-19 mission manager, prior to the launch.
NASA also awarded Venture Class Launch Services contracts in 2015 to Firefly Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Firefly lost its contract when the company went through bankruptcy, reemerging as Firefly Aerospace.
Virgin Orbit, the company spun off from Virgin Galactic to develop and operate the LauncherOne air-launch system, is nearing its first launch. The mission will carry 11 cubesats for universities and NASA's Ames Research Center.
This launch was the third for Rocket This year and second in a little more than one month. William Pickering, the New Zealand-born scientist who served as the director of JPL from 1954 to 1976.
The company said in a post-launch statement that its next Electron wants to be on the pad in January, but did not identify the customer. Company officials have said they are about to launch their 2018 cadence flights. The company recently opened a factory in Auckland, New Zealand, designed to support the production of one electron rocket per week.
"Regular and reliable launch of a reality for small satellites." The wait is over, "Beck said in the statement.
Rocket Lab announced a $ 140 million Series E ' round Nov. 15 that will help support that increased launch rate. The funding will be sponsored in October at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia.
"This funding also enables the continued aggressive scale-up of electron production to support our targeted weekly flight rate," Beck said in a statement then about the new funding round. "It wants to disclose details about those unspecified research and development efforts" in the new year. "