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posted by martyb on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the whatever-happened-to-Project-HARP? dept.

While SpaceX prepares its Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, newer companies are targeting smaller payloads:

[Aerospace veteran Jim] Cantrell left SpaceX in 2002, seeing the venture as too risky and unlikely to turn a profit. (It succeeded, he said, because Musk could not conceive of failure). However, even as SpaceX has become a dominant player in the large satellite launch industry, the small satellite industry has grown rapidly. The miniaturization of communications and imaging satellites has led to a new generation of rocket companies, such as Firefly Space Systems and Rocket Lab, which have built smaller launchers. Their rockets will generally heft payloads larger than 100kg into Sun-synchronous orbits 500km or higher.

Even with the rise of cubesats and other smaller technologies, payloads have continued to shrink. Over the last decade, Cantrell has watched this trend, seeing an opportunity to jump back into the launch business with a nano-satellite rocket. In late 2015, he called John Garvey, whose company Garvey Spacecraft Corporation had been working on such a rocket, and together they decided to found a new company called Vector. The company is developing a rocket with a reusable first stage that can deliver up to 25kg to a 400km Sun-synchronous orbit. Because of the groundwork already done by Garvey, Cantrell said Vector could begin orbital flights in 2018.

Also at TechCrunch.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Launch of Rocket Lab's Second "Electron" Rocket Due Dec. 7-8 1 comment

Rocket Lab to launch second orbital-class rocket as soon as next week

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket is designed to carry small satellites to orbit, targeting a market niche microsatellite owners say is currently under-served by larger, more expensive boosters. Using nine first stage engines and a single upper stage powerplant, the rocket can deliver up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of payload to at 310-mile-high (500-kilometer) sun-synchronous polar orbit.

The upcoming launch will be the second by an Electron rocket. The Electron's inaugural test flight May 25 reached space after a successful first stage burn and second stage ignition, but a data reception error with ground tracking equipment prompted an early termination of the mission for safety reasons.

[...] Backed by U.S. and New Zealand venture capital funds, and investment from the New Zealand government and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, Rocket Lab says it will sell future Electron rocket missions for $4.9 million per flight. The Electron is sized to provide a dedicated ride for small satellites that today must ride piggyback on bigger launchers.

Rocket Lab.

According to SpaceFlightNow's Launch Schedule: "Launch window: 0130-0530 GMT on 8th (8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. EST on 7th/8th)

Previously: Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine
Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission
New Companies Begin to Target the Micro-Satellite Market
"Planet" Purchases 3 Launches from "Rocket Lab"
Rocket Lab Makes Suborbital Launch From New Zealand

Related: Vector Space Completes First Test Flight, Hoping to Expand the Small Satellite Launch Market
Vector Space Systems Partners With Virginia Space for Launches


Original Submission

Rocket Lab Makes Suborbital Launch From New Zealand 12 comments

"Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!" the U.S. company, founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, tweeted at 4:29 p.m. New Zealand time Thursday. It is the first test of the company's Electron Rocket from New Zealand, a country of just 4.7 million people deep in the South Pacific.

Rocket Lab aims to build a New Zealand base from which to launch small satellites into low orbit. The country is considered a prime location because rockets originating deep in the Southern Hemisphere can reach a wide range of Earth orbits.

[...] With a height of 17 meters and a diameter of 1.2 meters, and 3D-printed engines, the Electron Rocket is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 225 kilograms, according to Rocket Lab, whose investors include Lockheed Martin Corp.

Bloomberg

Related stories:
Vector Space Completes First Test Flight, Hoping to Expand the Small Satellite Launch Market
"Planet" Purchases 3 Launches from "Rocket Lab"
New Companies Begin to Target the Micro-Satellite Market
Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission
Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @03:57PM (#337996)

    However, even as SpaceX has become a dominant player in the large satellite launch industry, the small satellite industry has grown rapidly.

    Really? I thought SpaceX has only done 24-ish real launches [wikipedia.org] in the last 10 years (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX [wikipedia.org])

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:02PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:02PM (#338027)

      There are not a lot of heavy lift launch systems. Being able get a single one on a successful mission makes you a major player.

      Delta IV has only had 31 launches.
      Atlas V 62

      Basically all of the active American made rockets together do not come close to Proton or Soyuz, so you could say that nobody other than Russia is a major player in heavy lift rockets.

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:30PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:30PM (#338040)

        Ariane may object that it's the big dog out there, given its success rate and dual-heavy launches...

        • (Score: 2) by bitstream on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:33PM

          by bitstream (6144) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:33PM (#338069) Journal

          Dual-heavy? two rockets strapped together?

          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:39PM

            by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:39PM (#338074)

            Two satellites into Geosynchronous orbit in one launch, about 5 metric tons each.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @11:28PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @11:28PM (#338200)

            I searched the web for dominant, dual-heavy, two rockets strapped together. It came up porn.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28 2016, @12:30AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28 2016, @12:30AM (#338217)

              No cup?

            • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28 2016, @05:08AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 28 2016, @05:08AM (#338287)

              I searched the web. It came up porn.

              FTFY.

        • (Score: 1) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:27PM

          by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:27PM (#338125)

          Good point, Ariane 5 has flown more and carries more than Atlas 5.

          --
          "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:47PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 27 2016, @05:47PM (#338045)

        GP here, you gave me a refreshing perspective. Thank you!

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:24PM

          by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @08:24PM (#338124)

          This [wikipedia.org] is probably my favorite list on the entirety of the internet.

          --
          "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday April 30 2016, @09:29PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Saturday April 30 2016, @09:29PM (#339593) Journal
  • (Score: 2) by bitstream on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:37PM

    by bitstream (6144) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:37PM (#338071) Journal

    How will they handle the seriously increased risk of collision in space with many many microsatellites spinning around? and perhaps even interfering with eachothers radio spectrum?

    Eternal space September? NASA will have to train their ISS crew to.. *DUCK!*

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Adamsjas on Wednesday April 27 2016, @07:19PM

      by Adamsjas (4507) on Wednesday April 27 2016, @07:19PM (#338096)

      Yes, lets hope these micro sats are in low enough orbits that drag alone will de-orbit them, or there is some requirement to reserve enough onboard fuel to de-orbit them at end of life.

      ISS has to be boosted occasionally because it orbits at between 330 and 410 km, and this is low enough for atmospheric drag to be an issue.

      • (Score: 2) by bitstream on Thursday April 28 2016, @03:23PM

        by bitstream (6144) on Thursday April 28 2016, @03:23PM (#338473) Journal

        I think the problem is that they likely have small radar signature and are numerous. It feels like a bad idea.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Gravis on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:44PM

    by Gravis (4596) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 27 2016, @06:44PM (#338079)

    It succeeded, he said, because Musk could not conceive of failure

    Space X succeeded because of the hard work of a lot of very intelligent people. It almost failed but the hard work finally paid off with a working rocket and then went on to astound the world with reusable rockets.

  • (Score: 2) by novak on Saturday April 30 2016, @12:36AM

    by novak (4683) on Saturday April 30 2016, @12:36AM (#339268) Homepage

    A lot of new companies are going after the small satellite market, because it's profitable. Lots of new satellites are fairly small, which is a natural consequence of electronics getting light enough that you don't necessarily require a massive spacecraft for every application. Just to name a few, you've got Firefly Space Systems, RocketLabs, and Virgin Galactic all awarded NASA's VCLS (Venture Class Launch Services) contract for a 60kg payload to LEO.

    --
    novak