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Rocket Lab poised to change the space industry

Rocket Lab poised to change the space industry

Aerospace company Rocket Lab is developing a world-first launch vehicle to deliver satellites into orbit cheaper and faster than ever before.

29 July 2014, Auckland: Rocket Lab is revolutionising the global space industry with the creation of a light-weight, cost-effective rocket, making it easier for companies to launch small satellites into orbit.

Rocket Lab is building a world-first carbon-composite launch vehicle, named Electron, at its Auckland facility to reduce the price of delivering a satellite into orbit. At a price of less than $5 million USD, this represents a drastic cost reduction compared to existing dedicated launch services[1].

The lead-time for businesses to launch a satellite will also be reduced from years[2] to weeks through vertical integration with Rocket Lab’s private launch facility. Rocket Lab has attracted strong commercial demand for its service with commitments for its first 30 launches.

Electron is 18m in length, 1m diameter and will weigh more than 10 tonnes. This will be the first vehicle of its class capable of delivering payloads up to 100kg into low Earth orbits (LEO).[3]

New Zealander Peter Beck founded the company in 2007 with a vision of eliminating the commercial barriers to space.

He says that rockets have remained prohibitively large and expensive, despite the trend for satellites to become smaller, more capable and affordable. The deficit in launch systems creates a severe barrier for commercial ventures and for the emerging satellite constellation markets.

“The innovation behind Electron will release the limitations on launching small satellites. Our vision at Rocket Lab is to make space commercially viable and more accessible than ever before, doing what the Ford Model T did for consumer automobiles. This technology will really open space for business.

“Along with benefits for commercial enterprises, cheaper and faster space access has the potential to lead to more accurate weather prediction, global high speed Internet access, as well as real-time monitoring of the impacts of human development,” says Beck.

Beck says geographically, New Zealand is in an ideal launch position for a variety of different types of orbits and plans are underway to build a space port on home soil.

“This will bring an innovative and exciting new industry to New Zealand with economic benefits at both a regional and national level. We’re currently considering a shortlist of regions as potential locations for a space port and encourage any region interested to get in touch with us now,” says Beck.

Rocket Lab’s principal funder is Silicon Valley giant Khosla Ventures, a top-tier venture capital firm that supports companies with projected revenues in excess of US $1 billion.

Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, says it is exciting to see to the technology and innovation coming out of Rocket Lab.

“Opening up access to space will be one of the fundamental developments of our time. We are very excited about our investment in Rocket Lab, which represents technology inventions to help emerge a whole new generation of commercial opportunities by having efficient and cost effective access to space,” says Khosla.

“The company’s technical innovations will truly transform the space industry.”

Electron: Fast facts
Lift off mass: 10,500kg
Propellant mass: 9,200kg
Propellants: Liquid oxygen and kerosene
Length: 18m
Diameter: 1m
Top speed: 27,500kph
Maximum engine thrust : 146,000 N (14.8 tonnes)
Engine equivalent power: 530,000hp
Nominal orbit: 500km circular sun synchronous
Nominal payload: 110kg


Notes to Editors:

Additional quotes:

CEO of Schafer Corporation and previous NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says that Rocket Lab’s work could be an important game changer in the space industry and that its innovative design approach offers a really attractive path to lower cost access to space.

“We’re all working towards a future where space becomes more accessible and Rocket Lab’s latest innovation is an important step in making that happen,” says Griffin.

About Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab is an aerospace company founded in 2007 by New Zealander, Peter Beck. The company is focused on delivering innovative, high quality technologies to the space industry.

Rocket Lab was created to cater to the growing requirement within the international market for fast, low cost methods of delivering payloads to space. Since inception, the company has successfully developed a number of leading rocket-based systems, from sounding rockets through to new advanced propulsion technologies.

Rocket Lab is an American company with a subsidiary and head office in Auckland, New Zealand.

Rocket Lab was the first private company to reach space in the southern hemisphere in 2009 with its Atea 1 suborbital sounding rocket. Following this success the company won contracts with aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, DARPA and Aeroject Rocket-dyne.

[1] The average price of a dedicated launch service is $133 million (USD). Source: Launces 2014: A Review of 2013 Launches and Payloads by The Tauri Group.

[2] Source: Work Commences on Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) Designs by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

[3] LEO is an orbit around Earth with an altitude between 160 kilometres, with an orbital period of around 88 minutes, and 2,000 kilometres, with an orbital period of around 127 minutes.

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