Rocket Labs had to cancel an April launch due to problems in the booster, but they have rescheduled for June 22.
Rocket Lab has had to deal with a two-month launch delay over technical problems, but the company now feels ready to launch its first commercial mission and has unveiled the planned launch date to be June 22. The rocket will be launched from the company’s base, located in New Zealand, and there are four-hour launch windows that will be available for two weeks after the June 22 planned launch date.
Rocket Labs will launch its Electron rocket, which was privately developed, and it will send satellites Irvine 01 – an educational CubeSat that was built by high school students in California — and NABEA, a drag sail technology demonstrator. The launch had previously been planned for April, but problems were discovered in the motor controller inside on of the booster engines, leading to the launch being scrubbed.
“Rocket Lab’s responsive space model is crucial to support the exponential growth of the small satellite market,” Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said in a statement. “That a customer can come to us seeking a ride to orbit and we can have them booked to launch in weeks is unheard of in the launch business. Small satellites are playing an increasingly important role in providing crucial services that benefit millions of people on Earth. Frequent access to orbit is the key to unlocking the potential for these satellites, and Rocket Lab is the only small launch provider currently enabling this access.”
Rocket Labs says its mission is to “remove barriers” to commercial space. These first two satellites will be a big step to what the company hopes is a bigger part of the commercial space industry.
“The NABEO drag sail is a system created to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites,” the statement reads. “The small sail is an ultra-thin membrane that can be coiled up tightly within a spacecraft and then deployed once the satellite reaches the end of its orbital lifespan. The reflective panels unfold to 2.5 square meters to increase the spacecraft’s surface area, causing it to experience greater drag and pull the satellite back into the Earth’s atmosphere, enabling much faster de-orbiting and reducing the amount of space junk in Low Earth Orbit.
“The Irvine CubeSat STEM Program is a joint educational endeavor to teach, train and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. It is comprised of students from six different American high schools (Beckman, Irvine, Northwood, Portola, University, and Woodbridge) in the city of Irvine , California, and powered by private sector donation through Irvine Public Schools Foundation. The students’ main objective is to assemble, test and launch a nano-satellite into low Earth orbit. Approximately 150 students are involved in the program at any one time. Aboard IRVINE01 is a low-resolution camera that will take pictures of Venus, stars and other celestial objects. Data from these images can be used to calculate distances to stars and determine pointing accuracy and stability of the satellite. Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems is the payload integrator for IRVINE01 and worked closely with Rocket Lab USA to identify this opportunity for a rapid flight certification process.”