Rocket Lab is a startup aiming to break new ground in the world of commercial space business: The company hopes to be the first in the world to regularly offer commercial orbital launches of small payloads from its own private launch facility, aboard its own private rockets. Now, it’s gearing up for its second ever test launch from its facility on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand – and this time it’ll be carrying payload from two satellite operators.
Both Planet and Spire, which operate satellite constellations for the purposes of delivering commercial Earth imaging and weather mapping services respectively, will have payloads aboard the next Rocket Lab launch, which is scheduled to take place sometime a few weeks after the Electron rocket makes its way to New Zealand this October.
Rocket Lab has one test launch under its belt already – it flew an Electron rocket on May 25, 2017. That resulted in a failure, but it was due to a third-party piece of the process, according to Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck, and didn’t require any significant changes to the Electron launch vehicle before future flight attempts.
The rocket didn’t make it all the way to orbit as planned, but it did make it to space, and provided a lot of valuable data that Rocket Lab used to refine their process. This new launch, called “Still Testing,” should provide even more since it’s actually carrying payload, including two satellites from Spire for its Lemur-2 commercial weather constellation, and two of Planet’s Dove-class Earth-imaging satellites.
I’d like to recommend that Rocket Lab put their next facility in my back yard: My neighbor has a smoker so the neighbors are already used to some exhaust in the vicinity.