After completing the final milestone required for launch on December 12, startup Rocket Lab announced that its small satellite launch vehicle, Electron, is ready to commence test flights by 2017.
Passing the qualification and acceptance stages at an undisclosed testing facility outside Auckland, reports say Electron will now be sent to Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the remote Mahia Peninsula to be assembled.
A two-stage rocket worth $4.9 million, Electron boasts of a revolutionary design that features: a maximum payload of 225 kilogram to a 500 kilometer orbit; custom cryogenic valves and helium pressurization systems for ultimate efficiency and reliability; high-performance miniature avionics and flight computer systems; and 12 Rutherford engines, an oxygen/kerosene pump fed engine specifically designed in-house for Electron using an entirely new propulsion cycle.
Originally, Rocket Lab wanted Electron to take off before Christmas of this year, but pushed it back to early next year for various reasons. "Mahia Township experiences a considerable population spike through the summer and, in order to minimize any disruptions to local residents and visitors, our preference is to conduct the first test launch after the holidays," Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Technical Officer, and Founder Peter Beck told NewsHub.
"You know we will fly when we are ready, but we had certainly hoped to get one away this year, but also our team has worked pretty incredible hours this year so we thought it was unfair to push through Christmas," he added.
Electron will start to undergo series of full vehicle testing in 2017, or as soon as international launch licensing is finalized. Rocket Lab spokesperson Catherine Moreau-Hammond told SpaceNews the company needs to obtain licenses both from the United States and New Zealand. Rocket Lab is an American aerospace corporation launching out of New Zealand.
Founded in 2006 by Peter Beck, a notable scientist and engineer with the Meritorious Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society for service of an exceptional nature and the Cooper Medal by the Royal Society (NZ) under his belt, Rocket Lab's mission, according to their website, is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent and dedicated launch opportunities. Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Lockheed Martin, and K1W1 are some of Rocket Lab's major investors.
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