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Raumfahrt - Rocket Lab erklärt Electron für Testflüge bereit

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15.12.2016

 

WASHINGTON — Launch startup Rocket Lab says it is ready to begin test flights of its Electron launch vehicle early next year, having concluded flight qualification and acceptance of the first stage booster.

Rocket Lab announced completion of these final milestones Dec. 12, saying in a press release that the company is waiting on international launch licensing before kicking off full vehicle testing. Spokesperson Catherine Moreau-Hammond told SpaceNews the company is imminently anticipating licenses from the U.S. and New Zealand — a requirement due to its status as a U.S. company launching out of New Zealand. 

Electron, the company’s dedicated small satellite launch vehicle, is a two-stage rocket with a price tag of $4.9 million for 150 kilogram payloads to a 500 kilometer orbit. Rocket Lab created the Rutherford engines used in the first stage, along with all other primary components including vehicle structures, avionics and software systems in-house. 

The first stage booster for Electron uses nine Rutherford engines linked together, and a single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine powers the second stage. 

Rocket Lab describes Electron as a vehicle designed for high-volume production. The company hopes to reach a launch cadence of around once a week after the first few years of operations. 

Rocket Lab’s Mahia Peninsula launch site, designated Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1, is the company’s location for the test launches. In the press release, CEO Peter Beck said Rocket Lab will continue testing Electron in the lead-up to commercial operations and is optimistic about starting the test flight program.

Quelle: SN

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Update: 16.02.2017

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Small Satellite Rocket Booster Arrives at New Zealand's First Launch Site

Rocket Lab is one among dozens of companies around the world building rockets to handle an expected boom in demand for small satellite launches.

 
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Rocket Lab

 

A small satellite launcher built by Rocket Lab has reached its New Zealand launch site for a debut test run in a few months.

The rocket, called Electron, is one of at least 17 small satellite launchers in development worldwide, a study for the Satellite Industry Association by The Tauri Group shows. 

Another study, presented at last year's International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, found at least 29 small boosters in development.

But competition isn't much of a concern Rocket Lab founder and chief technical officer Peter Beck, who started the company in 2006.

"We're turning customers away and we haven't even flown yet," Beck told Seeker. 

"I'm not really too concerned about the other launch companies coming along. In my opinion there's plenty for everybody… The biggest thing that we worry about actually is 'Can we build enough?' rather than 'Are there enough customers?'"

After three test flights, Rocket Lab aims to begin working off a manifest that includes flights for NASA, Planet, Spire and Moon Express, the latter of which is looking for a launch before the end of the year to compete in the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize. 

"Every customer is working to deadlines," Beck said. 

The first Electon booster arrived at Rocket Lab's privately owned launch site on Wednesday after a nine-hour truck ride from the company's manufacturing facility in Auckland. Rocket Lab's headquarters is in Los Angeles.

 

The Rocket Lab launch site at the Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand (Rocket Lab)

 

The launch site — the first in New Zealand — is located on the tip of Mahia Peninsula, a remote location with little air and marine traffic. The isolation is key to Rocket Lab's goal of flying Electron once a week. 

The two-stage, all-composite rocket is powered by 10 3D-printed Rutherford engines burning a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene. Using additive manufacturing (3D printing) techniques simplifies the manufacturing process and cuts costs, the company notes.

The Electron is capable of putting payloads weighing up to about 330 pounds into orbits some 311 miles above Earth. The rocket's base price is about $5 million. 

It will be a several months before the first Electron blasts off for its trial run. The entire launch system, including tracking, range safety and communications, needs to be brought online before the rocket can fly. 

Beck intends to work out any problems during three test flights then begin commercial launch services later this year. 

"If we have troubles then obviously there will be some delays there," Beck said. "It's important we get this vehicle up and running well."

 

The Electron rocket at the launch complex (Rocket Lab)

 

The Electron isn't the only small satellite launcher to debut this year. Japan's first flight of an experimental cubesat launcher called SS-520-4, failed last month. A reflight is in the works. 

Virgin Galactic, a space flight company owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, plans to test its air-launched small satellite booster LauncherOne this year. The rocket is under construction in Long Beach, California. Virgin Galactic also is testing a six-passenger, two-pilot suborbital spaceship in Mojave, California. 

WATCH VIDEO: What's the Best Kind of Rocket Fuel?

Quelle: Seeker
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Rocket Lab’s experimental rocket arrives at New Zealand launchpad for debut flight

The Electron is almost ready to start test launches