For CubeSats, hitching a ride to space depends on if there’s enough space on another mission to squeeze aboard. That changed yesterday. 10 NASA satellites (and 13 total) lifted off from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula and were placed into orbit on Sunday by Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket in a dedicated CubeSat launch.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket might be dwarfed by the likes of SpaceX and others, but they win for the best view. Check out that New Zealand countryside at 0:54.
As the CubeSat market grows, Rocket Lab is positioning itself to help big and small space players reach the stars. From NASA to small companies and university projects.
“The ELaNa-19 mission was a significant one for NASA, the Rocket Lab team and the small satellite industry overall. To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented. It’s exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to be delivering it. Regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites. The wait is over.”
Yesterday’s launch was the first under NASA’s new Venture Class Launch Service (VCLS) contracts. Launches under VCLS are all about providing CubeSat launch capability at an affordable price on dedicated smaller rockets. And Rocket Lab delivered just that yesterday.
NASA’s 10 CubeSats range from a solar sail demonstration and testing repair technologies to giving students hands-on time with designing and building flight hardware.
Sunday’s launch was the second time Rocket Lab used its kick stage configuration. This extra stage gives the company (and its customers) a lot more precision on where to place satellites in orbit around Earth.
What’s next for Rocket Lab? They’re not slowing down. Another Electron rocket will be resting on its launch pad in January. No word yet on its payload or exact launch time.