Today, at 14:43 NZDT (GMT+13), Rocket Lab successfully reached orbit with the second test flight of its Electron orbital launch vehicle Still Testing. The two-stage liquid fuel rocket, which has a maximum payload of 225kg, successfully deployed three satellites in orbit approximately 8 minutes and 31 seconds after lift-off.
The launch took place from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand. This was the company’s second launch attempt of its first launch vehicle Electron, and its first successful one. Rocket Lab’s first launch attempt had taken place on May 25 2017, when it successfully reached space but not orbit.
The launch today was also the company’s first time carrying customer payloads, which comprised Planet’s Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship tracking company Spire.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space. We’re thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after our first test launch,” said Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck. “Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is almost unprecedented”.
Rocket Lab added that it currently has five Electron vehicles in production, and eventually expects to launch more than 50 times a year. Its current customer manifest includes NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.