Update: Launch successful!
Upstart launch provider Rocket Lab aims to finally launch its first fully commercial payload to orbit this weekend after months of delays. The small Electron rocket will take six satellites from four companies to orbit as early as tomorrow evening Pacific time — Sunday afternoon at the company’s launch site in New Zealand.
“It’s Business Time,” as this launch is called, in honor of being the first to carry a full load of paying customers, was originally scheduled for this last spring, but small technical glitches have repeatedly delayed operations. Things are looking good for the 11th, though, and the window lasts until the 19th in case there’s inclement weather.
The rocket will be carrying two satellites for Spire’s earth-monitoring constellation, two for Fleet’s space-based smart devices grid, one for GeoOptics and one for the city of Irvine’s CubeSat STEM program.
This last item is of particular interest; the satellite was built by high school students from the Irvine area. Can’t say I ever had a school project quite that cool. The smallsat will be sending various measurements and observations back to the students from low earth orbit.
Not only that, but IRVINE01 is also the first satellite that will have Accion Systems’ electrospray thrust modules, tiny modular things that are highly efficient and perfect for small craft. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Accion founder (and designer of the thruster) Natalya Bailey and I’m sure she’s excited to see her creation taking flight.
It’s a big first for lots of people and a successful launch would help propel Rocket Lab toward its goal of super-frequent small payload deliveries like this one.