Making Space More Accessible

You may not have heard about the new private rocket company called Rocket Lab, but they’re making waves in the space industry. The American company has developed a small advanced rocket called the Electron which companies can use to put their small satellites into space! And it launches from New Zealand! Learn more about Electron and its advanced technology below!

Quick Overview Of Rocket Lab & It’s Advanced Electron Rocket!

If you haven’t heard about Rocket Lab or the Electron yet, it won’t be long until you do as the company is about to begin regular launches to service the small satellite market!

Their rocket is called the Electron. It’s a single use rocket capable of putting small satellites (like CubeSats) weighing less than 225kg (495 lb) into orbit. The Electron is made up of two stages (with an optional 3rd) and only stands 17m (56ft) tall! Unlike most other orbital grade rockets, it is remarkably small, with a diameter of only 1.2m (~4ft) wide and is constructed from advanced (and lightweight) carbon composite material.

The Electron is powered into space by Rocket Lab’s own liquid fuelled rocket engines called Rutherford engines. There are 9 Rutherford’s powering the first stage and 1 powering the 2nd Stage. They all use the rocket fuel called RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid Oxygen (LOX) which needs to be supercooled.

Amazingly almost all of the engines' parts are manufactured using advanced 3D-printers, how cool is that!? Depending on the customer, there is an optional 3rd stage rocket which can be used to refine the orbit, boost the satellites to higher orbits or assist in deploying multiple satellites. This uses another 3D printed rocket engine called Curie.

If you guessed that the rocket and rocket engines names were all related to science, and the atom, you are correct! The Rutherford is named after Ernest Rutherford who was a famous New Zealand physicist, while the Curie rocket is named after Marie Curie who was another famous Polish physicist!

The Electron first launched on the 25th of May 2017. The launch went as expected, even reaching space! Unfortunately, due to an issue with the communication equipment on the ground, the rockets 2nd stage had to be destroyed before it completed its mission 🙁

The second flight launched on 21st January 2018 and successfully delivered three CubeSats into Earth orbit. The first commercial launch of Electron successfully happened in November 2018.

When Electron first launched in May 2017, it became the first rocket launched from New Zealand to reach space! Located on New Zealand’s East Coast, Launch Complex-1 at the tip of Mahia Peninsula was originally chosen on account of its remoteness and position next to the ocean so the rockets launched on their planned polar orbit fly out over the ocean.

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