In its first flight, taken off at 6:20 pm today by Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, the lightweight Rocket Lab carrier, Electron, managed to reach Space, but failed to enter In orbit.
“We had a perfect stage of the first stage, a perfect separation between the stadiums and the fairing and a good startup of the second stage, but we did not reach the orbit and try to understand why.” So the Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck explained the trend of the first launch of the Eretron, which flew on a suborbital trajectory, failing to meet the 300 x 500-km orbit initially set as a target. On board, given the experimental nature of the launch, no payload.
Of American nationality but based in New Zealand, Rocket Lab has been developing Electron independently for several years. In detail, this is a two-stage lightweight car for a total of 17 meters designed to carry a 150-kg cargo load of 500 km or more. The first stage boost is guaranteed by nine Rutherford proprietary engines powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, and in the second stage by a single Rutherford engine, modified to optimize its vacuum efficiency.
In the coming weeks, Rocket Lab engineers will work between Los Angeles and Auckland on the over 25,000 telemetry channels provided by Eretron during his first flight. The data will then be used to optimize and improve the vehicle, which by the end of the year will be called to two more decollations. At the second flight, the company said, the goal is to “reach the orbit”.
Thinking about the growing market for small satellites, the cost of a single Elettron mission is around $ 5 million, a figure that has helped bring some contracts for NASA, Moon Express (towards the Moon for the Google Lunar X Prize) and, recently, for Spaceflight. At a regime, Rocket Lab aims to launch about 50 Electron per year.