Rocket Lab Successfully Reaches Orbit and Deploys Payloads

Andrew Cummings
January 21, 2018

If Sunday's launch is successful, it will be the first time a satellite is launched into orbit from New Zealand.

The Electron blasted off today from the company's private launch facility on the Māhia Peninsula in New Zealand at 2:43 p.m. local time, which is 8:43 p.m. EST on January 19 (0143 GMT).

Rocket Lab will attempt to launch "Still Testing" between 2.30pm and 6.30pm on Saturday.

The New Zealand-born aerospace company tried to launch the rocket, named "Still Testing", from the Māhia Peninsula before Christmas a year ago, but strong wind high in the atmosphere, a power fault, and too much liquid oxygen feeding into the rocket's engine obstructed multiple launch attempts.

Still Testing will carry small Earth-imaging satellites for USA companies Planet Labs and Spire Global.

"Still Testing" was originally slated to blast off during a launch window in November of past year, but the launch was delayed after a power fault in the ground systems triggered an automatic abort just seconds before liftoff.

Company CEO and founder Peter Beck, a New Zealander, said the launch marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space. The relatively small launch vehicle, only 56 feet tall, is catered to the growing demand for a rocket to place smaller satellites in orbit.

"Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is nearly unprecedented".

Rocket Lab staff released weather balloons on Saturday morning, and the data from them would inform whether a launch attempt will be made and at what time.

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