Rocket Lab Plans for Electron Commercial Flight

Electron soars into orbit. (Credit: Screenshot from Rocket Lab webcast)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., March 13, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed its next launch will be the company’s first fully commercial flight. Two Lemur-2 cubesats for launch customer Spire Global will be on board the upcoming launch, with the full manifest to be confirmed in coming weeks.

The flight’s name was put to a vote on social media, with “It’s Business Time” coming out as a clear fan favourite and a continuation of company’s previous flight names, “It’s a Test” and “Still Testing”.


Fast Company Selects Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Space

Fast Company has released its annual list of the most innovative companies for 2018. The 10 top innovators in the space industry are shown above.

I’m a bit surprised by Stratolaunch landing at no. 10. The aircraft is impressive; I’ve seen it in person outside, and it’s positively Spruce Goosian in its size and ambition. And I’ve been on tarmacs walking around a 747 and an A380, which are also very large airplanes.

That being said, the reality is that the only rocket it available to launch is a Pegasus, whose primary launch aircraft is Orbital ATK’s 44-year old L-1011 that’s parked just down the flight line from the Stratolaunch hangar. They’re working on developing a larger booster for the giant aircraft, so maybe Stratolaunch will be as innovative as Fast Company believes it is at some point. Never say never.

It just seems that Burt Rutan got focused on building the coolest flying vehicle he could while the whole issue of the rocket was not as well thought through. A similar thing happened with SpaceShipTwo, contributing to years of delay.

The other thing is I heard last fall is the Stratolaunch aircraft might not fly until sometime well into next year. So, it could be a while before we see how well that thing actually performs in flight.

Rocket Lab Reaches 500 Rutherford Engine Test Fires

Rutherford engine test (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Huntington Beach, Calif. and Auckland, NZ, January 31, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, has this month completed its 500th test fire of the orbital-class Rutherford rocket engine.


Rocket Lab Launched Humanity Star Satellite Aboard Electron Booster

Humanity Star satellite (Credit: Rocket Lab)

In addition to three CubeSats, Rocket Lab launched a fourth satellite aboard Electron on Sunday. Here’s how the company describes it on Twitter:

“The Humanity Star – a bright, blinking satellite now orbiting Earth, visible to the naked eye in the night sky. Launched on #StillTesting, The Humanity Star is designed to encourage everyone to look up and consider our place in the universe.

“The Humanity Star will only be on orbit for around nine months, so you’ll need to be quick to catch a glimpse. Track its location on website.”

Rocket Lab Successfully Tested Kick Stage During Electron Flight

Electron kick stage deploying satellite. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

Huntington Beach, California and Auckland, New Zealand (Rocket Lab PR): Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, has successfully tested a previously unannounced kick stage on the Still Testing Electron launch vehicle, using it to circularize the orbits of the two Spire Lemur-2 CubeSats on board.


A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!


Second Rocket Lab Electron Flight Succeeds

Electron soars into orbit. (Credit: Rocket Lab webcast screenshot)

Rocket Lab has successfully launched its Electron rocket from New Zealand, marking the first success of the small satellite booster.

The two-stage Electron roared off its launch pad on the Mahia Peninsula and appeared to have nominal flight. Commentary on the company’s webcast indicate the rocket successfully deployed three CubeSats from Planet and Spire.

Planet confirmed deployment of its satellite via Twitter. Spire also confirmed the successful deployment of two Lemur spacecraft.

The Electron booster’s second stage just prior to cutoff. (Credit: sRocket Lab webcast screenshot)

It marked only the second launch of the booster, which failed during its inaugural flight in May 2017. The ground lost telemetry from the rocket, which was blown up by range safety.

Electron is powered by Rutherford engines and is capable of placing payloads up to 225 kg (496 lb) into a 500-km (310-mile) sun synchronous orbit.

China Launches Satellites, ULA & Rocket Lab Flights Set

Atlas V on launch pad. (Credit: ULA)

China launched a Long March 11 rocket with six satellites aboard on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The booster orbited a pair of Jilin-1 Earth imaging satellites for the Chang Guang Satellite company as well as four secondary payloads.

ULA is set to launch an Atlas V rocket with an U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO early warning satellite later today. The flight is scheduled to lift off at 7:48 p.m. from Cape Canaveral in Florida.  ULA scrubbed the launch on Thursday do to a problem with ground equipment.

The webcast is available at and

The delay has postponed an attempt by SpaceX to conduct a static fire of the Falcon Heavy’s first-stage engines on a nearby launch pad. The test had been planned for Friday, but the next earliest opportunity is Saturday providing the Atlas V launches tonight.

On Saturday, Rocket Lab will open a launch window for the second flight of its Electron rocket. The first four-hour window opens on January 20 at 2:30 p.m. NZDT (0130 a.m. GMT/8:30 p.m. EST on Friday).

Rocket Lab has reserved nine days with identical four-hour windows for this launch attempt. The booster is carrying CubeSats for Planet and Spire.

Check Rocket Lab’s website for information about the webcast.

Rocket Lab to Open Electron Launch Window on Jan. 20

Eelectron rocket on the launch pad. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

AUKLAND, January 11, 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand, will open a nine-day launch window from Saturday January 20, 2018 (NZDT) to carry out the company’s second test launch of the Electron rocket. During this time a four-hour launch window will open daily from 2:30 p.m. NZDT.


Some Rocket Launches to Watch in 2018

The world’s most powerful booster is set to make a flight test sometime in January. If all goes well, 27 first stage engines will power the new booster off Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The three first stage cores will peel off and land for later reuse while the second stage continues into space.


SpaceX Ruled Roost in 2017, Boosting U.S. to No. 1 in Global Launches

Falcon 9 carries the Dragon cargo ship into orbit. (Credit: NASA TV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.

The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.


India & Europe Eye Smallsat Launchers

PSLV C38 mission launches (Credit: ISRO)

Officials in India and Europe are eying a greater share of the emerging small satellite market with light versions of the PSLV and Vega C boosters, respectively.


Time Running Out to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The clock is ticking for the remaining teams in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Barring another extension, they have until March 31 to land a vehicle on moon and travel 500 meters across it to claim the $20 million first prize or $5 million second prize. It’s not clear whether any of them will make the deadline.