Rocket Lab successfully launches second Electron booster test flight

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Rocket Lab is hoping to fill a niche for small payload orbital launches with its house-built Electron rocket and private launch facility — and now it’s one step closer to full commercial operations. The startup managed its second test flight (via Space) for its Electron booster — this time making it all the way to orbit, where it deployed some of its first-ever customer payloads.

The Electron launched from Rocket Lab’s launch pad in New Zealand, which it has set up to be the first commercial private launch facility in the world. Having a private pad means less complexity in terms of working with stakeholders and partners, and a potential to be able to launch rockets with unmatched flexibility and consistency.

Rocket Lab had a previous test flight of the Electron — which was mostly a success, though it didn’t make it all the way to its desired height, owing to what the company says was a problem with some of its ground equipment. This time around, the Electron performed as intended, and even delivered customer payload to orbit.

Ultimately, it wants to be operating Electron flights on the regular, with full commercial operations kicking off sometime this year. The rocket can carry around 500 lbs in total payload, which is peanuts compared to something like the Falcon 9, but it’s intended to be a cheap and effective alternative for customers who can’t foot the bill of a major launch but are also putting much smaller cubesats or other light payload into orbit.