MAHIA, New Zealand, 27 Sept. 2016. “Completing Launch Complex 1 is a significant milestone in the build-up to our first Electron test flight,” says Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, who describes it as the world’s first private orbital launch complex and “a considerable opportunity to change how we access space.”
Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula is designed to enable the highest-frequency space launches in history. The facility will be the primary site for launches of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150-kilogram (330-pound) payload to a 500-kilometer (310-mile) sun-synchronous orbit.
Launch Platform - Electron Rocket (Photo: Business Wire)
New Zealand’s remote island location and low volume of marine and air traffic create ideal conditions for frequent launch opportunities, according to Rocket Lab officials. Launches from the site can access a uniquely wide range of orbital inclinations, from 39 degrees through sun-synchronous orbit, they add.
Facilities at Launch Complex 1 include a vehicle processing hangar, where the vehicle will be prepared for launch, and a 50-tonne launch platform. The platform will tilt forward to lift the rocket to a vertical position prior to launch.
Satellites launched from the complex will be used to provide services including optimized crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data, and search and rescue services.
Rocket Lab has completed major milestones this year with the qualification of the 3D-printed Rutherford engine, qualification of the second stage of the Electron rocket, and the development of major infrastructure including remote tracking, test facilities, and the launch site. The company is working through the qualification of the first stage of the Electron rocket and will look to begin the test flight phase once qualification and launch licencing are complete.
Using Electron, the company’s latest launch vehicle, Rocket Lab will launch satellites primarily used to provide imaging and communications services. Customers signed to fly on Electron include NASA, Planet, Spire, and Moon Express, officials say. The Electron small satellite launch vehicle has a dedicated launch priced at $4.9 million.
Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent and dedicated launch opportunities. Since its creation in 2006 by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has delivered a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment. Rocket Lab is a private company, with major investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Lockheed Martin.
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