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posted by Fnord666 on Friday May 26 2017, @02:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the more-the-merrier dept.

"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.


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

Related Stories

Rocket Lab Unveils "Electric" Rocket Engine 16 comments

The New Zealand based commercial space company Rocket Lab has unveiled their new rocket engine which the media is describing as battery-powered. It still uses fuel, of course, but has an entirely new propulsion cycle which uses electric motors to drive its turbopumps.

To add to the interest over the design, it uses 3D printing for all its primary components. First launch is expected this year, with commercial operations commencing in 2016.

Moon Express and Rocket Lab Team Up for 2017 Lunar Mission 6 comments

Space startup Moon Express has signed a contract with Rocket Lab to help carry out three lunar missions starting in 2017. Described as the first private contract between two companies to carry out a lunar landing, the agreement will see Rocket Lab provide launch services using its Electron rocket system for the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander as part of Moon Express's attempt win the Google Lunar Xprize.

The contract stipulates that Rocket Lab will provide services for two launches of the MX-1 lander in 2017 and a third at a date yet to be determined. These will be conducted from either Rocket Lab's New Zealand facilities or an American launch site. The Moon Express MX-1 lander is a scalable 600 kg (1,320 lb) spacecraft that can be sent to the Moon either directly or using low-energy trajectories. Its purpose is not only to conduct scientific missions, but also to deliver commercial payloads to the lunar surface at lower costs.

Life imitates art.

Original Submission

New Companies Begin to Target the Micro-Satellite Market 19 comments

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

"Planet" Purchases 3 Launches from "Rocket Lab" 6 comments

From the LA Times:

The launch manifest for Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab is starting to fill up. The small-satellite launch company said Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with Earth-imaging satellite firm Planet for three dedicated launches on its Electron rocket.

The launches will take place from the company's Mahia Penninsula launch site.

SpaceNews reports:

[...] each launch will carry is still being determined, but will likely be between 20 and 25. Each Dove is a three-unit cubesat with a mass of about five kilograms.

The schedule for the launches will depend on the development of Electron, which has yet to make its first flight. Safyan said that if the Electron test program goes well, the first Planet launch, likely to sun-synchronous orbit, could be as soon as the second quarter of 2017.

Although the terms of the deal weren't announced, Rocket Lab quotes a price of about $5 million (USD) per launch for the Electron.

Original Submission

Vector Space Completes First Test Flight, Hoping to Expand the Small Satellite Launch Market 6 comments

Is there room for launch companies smaller than the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX?

Vector Space Systems successfully launched a full-scale model of its Vector-R rocket on Wednesday in Mojave, California. The test flight, which remained under 50,000 feet for regulatory purposes, allows the company to remain on track to begin providing launch services for small satellites in 2018, said Jim Cantrell, the company's chief executive and cofounder.

The Arizona-based rocket company is one of a handful of competitors racing to the launch pad to provide lower-cost access to space for small satellites. These satellites are generally under 500kg in mass and often much smaller (the industry trend is toward smaller, lighter, more capable satellites). The Vector-R rocket will eventually be capable of launching a payload of up to 45kg to an orbit of 800km above the Earth. Other companies trying to reach this market include US-based Virgin Orbit and New Zealand-based Rocket Lab. Neither company has begun commercial launches.

[...] The market seems ready for micro-launchers. For now, smaller payloads must typically "share" rides to space on larger rockets, and they cannot count on a launch date. Instead of being treated as excess cargo, Vector intends to offer these small satellites the capability to launch within three months of demand. Vector will launch these small payloads into any desired orbit from Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska or Cape Canaveral in Florida. Launch costs will range from $2 million to $3 million.

Also at NASASpaceFlight.

Original Submission

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's Second "Electron" Rocket Launch Succeeds, Reaches Orbit 15 comments

After a failure to reach orbit last year and several delays, Rocket Lab has successfully launched an Electron rocket into orbit:

Rocket Lab has returned to action with the second launch of its Electron rocket from the Māhia Peninsula from the North Island of New Zealand's eastern coast. Several attempts to launch at the end of last year were scrubbed before regrouping for a new attempt – which was also scrubbed, due to a wayward boat, a technical issue and then the weather – before finally launching at 01:43 UTC on Sunday and appears to have been a success.

Much like Vector Space – which is currently in small-scale suborbital testing with aims to enter the launch market next year – Rocket Lab caters to much the same market, offering small satellite users a dedicated launch system to eliminate ride-sharing requirements on the larger, more established launchers.

According to the company's website, Rocket Lab lists its launch services with Electron as costing $4.9 million (USD) per flight.

Three cubesats were deployed.

Rocket Lab has two more upcoming launches planned for Q1 2018, including a lunar lander for Moon Express. The Electron rocket will deliver the Moon Express payload into low-Earth orbit, where the lander will use its own thrusters to get to the Moon:

Once in low-Earth orbit, the MX-1E will need to complete a translunar injection (TLI) burn, cruise through space, conduct a breaking[sic] burn to enter lunar orbit, and finally complete descent and landing burns—all by itself. It would be an unprecedented accomplishment, a single-stage spacecraft that can make it all the way to the surface of the moon from low-Earth orbit.

How will a cheap disposable rocket fare against reusable rockets?

Also at Wired.

Original Submission

Rocket Lab Set to Launch Commercial Payloads on April 20 3 comments

Rocket Lab is about to win the small satellite launch space race

Life is pretty good for Rocket Lab and its founder Peter Beck right now. With two test flights of its Electron rocket completed in the last 10.5 months, the company says it will move into commercial operations later this month. The 14-day launch window for the "It's Business Time" mission, carrying two private payloads, opens on April 20.

In an interview, Beck said Rocket Lab hopes to fly eight missions in 2018 and reach a monthly launch cadence by the end of the year. The company's initial test flight in May 2017 failed to reach orbit, but a second flight in January of this year was almost entirely successful. Rocket Lab will become the first of a number of small-satellite launch companies to begin serving customers.

Previously: Rocket Lab Makes Suborbital Launch From New Zealand
Rocket Lab's Second "Electron" Rocket Launch Succeeds, Reaches Orbit

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:27AM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:27AM (#515790)

    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.

    The Earth is a ball and orbits go all the way around so there's no difference between launching a rocket from deep in the Southern Hemisphere and launching one from deep in the Northern Hemisphere. Canada or Russia would be just as good.

    In fact, it's expensive to launch rockets into orbits whose inclination is less than the latitude of the launch site, which is one reason why commercial satellites tend to get launched near the equator. So there are a lot of orbits for which New Zealand is a *lousy* launch site. It might be OK for certain kinds of polar orbits, but no better than any other site far from the equator.

    But marketers have to spin!

    • (Score: 2) by butthurt on Friday May 26 2017, @04:17AM (5 children)

      by butthurt (6141) on Friday May 26 2017, @04:17AM (#515828) Journal

      > Canada or Russia would be just as good.

      Perhaps the advantage is that New Zealand is surrounded by ocean. At Baikonur,

      [...] countless debris, often containing toxic propellant components, were littering virgin lands of Kazakhstan.

      -- []

      • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Friday May 26 2017, @08:24AM (4 children)

        by MostCynical (2589) on Friday May 26 2017, @08:24AM (#515883)

        There is the added advantage of not having to construct, or ship, your payload in, or to, the northern hemisphere. Great, if you're thinking of putting stuff into space and you're already based somewhere south of the equator.

        tau = 300. Greek circles must have been weird.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by bob_super on Friday May 26 2017, @05:24AM

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday May 26 2017, @05:24AM (#515841)

      > Canada or Russia would be just as good.

      I'll have to agree with Ars: They have the most beautiful launch site in the world... []

    • (Score: 2) by novak on Friday May 26 2017, @06:23PM

      by novak (4683) on Friday May 26 2017, @06:23PM (#516065) Homepage

      In fact, it's expensive to launch rockets into orbits whose inclination is less than the latitude of the launch site, which is one reason why commercial satellites tend to get launched near the equator. So there are a lot of orbits for which New Zealand is a *lousy* launch site. It might be OK for certain kinds of polar orbits, but no better than any other site far from the equator.

      Some satellites are launched from near the equator, but many are not. Many of those benefiting from a equatorial launch are large comsats and the like headed out to geostationary orbits. Many of the small satellites which fit in a 225kg to LEO orbit are going into polar orbits.

  • (Score: -1, Spam) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:32AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:32AM (#515793)

    Rocky took one quick step back, then sprung up onto her
    back. His woolen legs enveloped her waist. His weight
    forced her head further into the grass, as her nipples
    dragged across the ground. Startled, her eyes bugged out
    of her head as she felt something else long and wet replace
    his tongue. His long penis wildly poked at her cunt,
    trying to find its entrance. Well, that answered Mary's
    question as to whether he could get it up again.
    Immediately, Mary clamped her legs closed, trapping his
    long dick between her thighs. She was losing control of
    the situation as the ram's penis frantically rubbed first
    up and down her slit and then banged into her swollen clit.
    Hoping to regain her composure, she decided she would just
    grab hold of it with her hand. Perhaps then she could just
    rub the head of it up and down her pussy lips without
    putting it in. She reached between her legs and grabbed
    his throbbing hunk of meat, once again confident that she
    had control of the situation. In this position, his cock
    would be no more than a dildo for her amusement. She held
    the powerful stalk of her new toy in her hands and began to
    rub it up and down her slit. As his pre-cum began to leak
    out copiously, she once again began to cream. In less than
    a minute she was building back up towards orgasm.

    That's when her own body began to betray her. The ram
    continually hunched forward, and as he did, Mary found
    herself hunching back, pressing his glans harder and harder
    against her clit and deeper and deeper between her outer
    lips. His pre-cum literally poured into her hole, making
    it so slippery that it easily stretched her opening wider
    and wider. Her pussy lips kissed the end of his cock,
    trying to suck it inside. Then in one swift motion, and
    most likely with the aid of Mary's own hand, the head of
    his cock slipped past the ring of her cunt opening.

    Mary gasped with surprise as she felt the sudden invader.
    For a brief moment she reached back and tried to pull it
    back out with her thumb and forefinger. "No, no! Take it
    out!" she grunted but Rocky would not be denied. He
    pressed forward and Mary lost all resolve, feeling herself
    squirming back onto his shaft another couple of inches.
    Knowing that he had won, Rocky withdrew slightly without
    removing the head of his dick. With a loud Baa, befitting
    a roar of a lion, he thrust his cock forward, splitting her
    open and tearing her hymen to shreds. Tears welleed up in
    Mary's eyes from the sudden sharp and searing pain of
    losing her virginity.

    The ram stopped thrusting for the moment, taking the time
    to cry out again in his conquest. The pain began to
    subside and her pussy began to relax and stretch out as the
    ram continually pressed forward. The ram pulled back and
    slammed into her even further. This time her pussy was
    even more accomodating, allowing him to reach the furthest
    depths of her pussy. As he withdrew again, her cunt
    muscles began to stroke his member, pulling on it as if
    they did not want to let it go. Her inner lips were drawn
    out of her pussy as he withdrew a few more inches. Christ,
    he thought, nothing he had known had ever felt so tight.
    No sheep pussy ever milked him like this before. The bands
    of muscles in her young pussy involutarily began to snap at
    the head of his dick. Finally, he thrust forward, sinking
    his cock to the hilt. As he bottomed out, Mary sighed in
    contentment feeling herself completely filled. Stuffed to
    the limit, the walls of her pussy began to juice like
    crazy, warming and lubricating his passage.

    With the increased lubrication, Rocky began to slowly
    thrust in and out of Mary's cunt. Delirious with lust now,
    Mary began to rut her hips back towards his impaling shaft.
    This was the greatest experience she had ever felt in her

    He soon began hunching his back faster, picking up speed.
    Her insides began to quake, building up to orgasm.
    Suddenly, BLAMMMM!!! - one quick one rocked through her

    The ram kept up his animalistic pace. "Oh, my God!!!", she
    squealed, "Here comes another one!" Over and over, the ram
    continued to pour it to her, and Mary continued to cum,
    each one larger than the last. His penis nudged right up
    against her womb. Her insides were snapping at his
    dickhead and squeezing along its length, hungry for more
    and more dick. The ram felt his balls swelling one more

    Rocky didn't know he couldn't make baby sheep with this
    female. He only knew he had a job to do and that this
    female was hotter and wilder and more in heat than any he
    had ever been on before. He had to try to impregnate her
    with as much of his sperm as he could possibly make. His
    humping sped up to a frantic pace, and Mary's eyes began to
    water. Her tongue hung out of her mouth, as she was turned
    into a quivering mass of lust. Her pussy was the center of
    her universe. Crying out one last time the ram thrust in
    as hard as he could and unleashed a torrent of cum into her
    gripping pussy.

    "A-a-a-y-eee-eee-iii!!!!", she cried out. She convulsed
    with a mind numbing orgasm, this time squirting back at
    him. His balls continued to pump another quart of ram
    sperm into her pussy, pushing up against the back of her
    cunt, trying to plant his seed into her womb. He hosed
    every inch of her insides, til Mary thought she might soon
    see his sperm shoot out of her mouth. Rocky kept pumping
    until he could give no more, eventually groaning and
    collapsing on her back.

    For a few brief moments they laid there, incapable of
    moving. Mary couldn't believe how intense it felt to be so
    filled with dick, and to be pumped so full of cum, even if
    it was just a ram. Now she knew what it felt like to be
    fucked. Not just fucked, but royally fucked. Nothing her
    friend Lulu May had done could possibly top this. The ram
    struggled to his feet pulling his long phallus out of her
    strangling cunt. As the head finally popped out, Mary felt
    the combined fluids of their mating pour out of her now
    gaping hole.

    The once aggressive ram staggered away, all of his energy
    sapped from every sinew in his body. Mary moaned in
    contented bliss, "Umm-m- m-m-m, I'm never going to want to
    do anything else. We're gonna fuck a lot!"

    One day, maybe she might invite Lulu May over to show her a
    thing or two. Meanwhile, she wondered if she could still
    technically call herself a virgin after this. Perhaps one
    of the local farm boys could help lay that problem to rest.
    Of course, he'd have to be a really BIG farm boy to measure
    up to Rocky. Besides, farm boys could talk and mess things
    up a lot for her.

    No, for now, animals would have to do. Delirious with
    lust, Mary wondered if one ram would be enough to satisfy
    her now insatiable hunger for sex. Maybe Rocky had a
    friend who could help out. This way she could drink the
    sperm out of one ram cock while being fucked by another.

    She struggled to her feet, picking up her dress and
    slinging it over her arm. She began to walk down to the
    local creek to rinse off. As she strolled along she
    fantasized about dicks. Now that she had fucked the ram,
    nothing would stop her. A dick was a dick. Maybe she
    could interest her neighbor's hound dogs to help her out,
    or perhaps her father's new pony could be trained to
    cooperate with her. My God, wouldn't that be something,
    she thought.

    A whole new world of erotic bestial possibilities lay
    before her and it made her smile deep down inside.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:03PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 26 2017, @02:03PM (#515960)

      What a fascinating retelling of the classic nursery rhyme. But I have a rocket fetish, you insensitive clod!

  • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Saturday May 27 2017, @03:25AM

    by kaszz (4211) on Saturday May 27 2017, @03:25AM (#516277) Journal

    225 kg and 4.9 million US$. Almost like one could take a quick tour around the planet on the cheap using only a space suit ;)
    Though re-entry would require some compact heat shield.