Rocket Lab has managed to engineer a significant payload capacity bump into its existing Electron space launch vehicle, the company revealed today. Electron can now fly as much as 300 kg (660 lbs) to low Earth orbit (or around 440 lbs to a higher, sun synchronous orbit), and that’s mostly due to battery technology advances, according to Rocket Lab.
Electron is not battery-powered, of course — but the electric pumps that help feed its Rutherford engines are. That’s where they’re getting the boost, along with some other optimizations, increasing the total payload capacity by a full third. That’s a lot of additional capacity in the small satellite launch market, where a CubeSat can weigh as little as 3 lbs or less.
Rocket Lab notes that this means customers who are using their Photon spacecraft as a satellite bus (essentially the basic satellite platform upon which a company can build their specific instrumentation needs) will now have nearly 400 lbs available to them for their equipment, which should make possible a whole range of potential new applications.
The company announced last week that it was aiming to return to active launch status as early as this month, after an issue caused the early termination and failure of a mission in early July. It said it was able to quickly identify the problem and is already implementing a fix, and now it clearly wants to remind potential customers of its unique offerings and capabilities in the small satellite market.