Rocket Lab (updates)

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DocM    13,438

Rocket Lab of NZ is working on Electron, a mini-Falcon 9 configuration smallsat launcher, and it's Rutherford engine. Rutherford is unique because its 3D printed and uses electric motor driven turbopumps, powered by lithium-polymer batteries. Rutherford was recent qualified for flight. 

 

Rocket Lab has a Space Act Agreement with NASA and has received a $6.95m NASA Venture Class Launch Services contract.

 

Payload: 150kg / 500 km sun-synchronous orbit

Launch site1 : Mahia Peninsula, North Island, NZ
Launch site 2: KSC LC-39C, a new small launcher pad

 

https://www.rocketlabusa.com

 

Qualification burn 

 

 

 

Rocket Lab today announced its Rutherford Engine has been qualified for flight after the completion of a rigorous test program.

 

The 5,000 lbf Rutherford engine was created by Rocket Lab specifically for the companys Electron launch vehicle. Rutherford has been tested extensively for over two years, and was qualified for flight after completing more than two hundred engine hot fires. The engine will first be flown during the Electron test program scheduled to run throughout the second half of 2016.

 

The qualification of the engine is a major milestone for 3D printing; Rutherford is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use additive manufacturing for all primary components of the combustor and propellant supply system. Rutherford also has a unique electric propulsion cycle, making use of high-performance brushless DC electric motors and lithium polymer batteries to drive its turbopumps.

 

Electron uses nine Rutherford engines on its first stage, and a vacuum variant of the same engine on its second stage. The vehicle is capable of delivering a 150kg payload to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit, the target range for the high-growth constellation-satellite market.

 

640_rocket-lab.jpg 

 

S1 cluster

first-stage.png

 

S2
second-stage.png

 

rutherford-engine-2.jpg

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Draggendrop    5,175

Ooooh....a mini me

 

2DrEvil.thumb.jpg.0b711eb687ac38dda2ddd4

 

It actually looks great and I'm looking forward to seeing this launcher in action.

 

:woot:

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Unobscured Vision    2,276

Yeah, me too. Looks like it's got a fair bit of kick!

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+Mirumir    5,538
2 hours ago, DocM said:

 

rutherford-engine-2.jpg

Freddy Got Fingered: the "rockets are hot" scene :D 

 

Spoiler
Quote

...cos I like going fast and I like rockets...because they're hot...and hard...and long.

 


 

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Unobscured Vision    2,276

oh-my-takei_zps45fbdc2c.gif~c200

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+FloatingFatMan    14,163

D'aaaw. That's so cuuuuuuute! :p

 

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flyingskippy    134

Rocket Lab's Electron and Firefly's Alpha are going to be really interesting to watch with they're Google style approach to the small sat launch market. I hope for the best for  them and that they don't end up like the Vega. 

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DocM    13,438

They both have launches booked, so the reception so far looks positive. Helping this is the huge increase in cubesat and smallsat capability.

 

Electron will be launching the Moon Express MX-1E micro-lander entry for the Google Lunar X-Prize

 

http://lunar.xprize.org/press-release/xprize-verifies-moon-express-launch-contract-kicking-new-space-race

 

2_moonexpress.jpg

 

and and 12 Spire cubesat weather satellite launches, several per launch

 

http://spacenews.com/rocket-lab-to-launch-spire-satellites/

 

lemur-2__2.jpg

Edited by DocM

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DocM    13,438

Launch this year

 

http://3dprintingindustry.com/2016/03/25/rocket-lab-preps-to-send-3d-printed-rocket-into-space/

 

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Rocket Lab Preps to Send 3D Printed Rocket into Space

>

> [setup stuff]
>
To create the thrust chamber, injector, turbopumps, and main propellant valves, Rocket Lab relied on Arcams electron beam melting technology, 3D printing the components from titanium alloys. Though most of the cost savings come from the use of the electric battery, altogether these innovations have reduced the cost of launching the rocket to just $4.9 million per launch (compared to SpaceXs $54 million and ULAs $225 million). These savings could potentially be passed onto the customer, making it less expensive to send small payloads into space.

 

On March 22, Rocket Lab announced that the Rutheford had completed its qualification tests, publishing the above video of a hot fire test in which the engine was fired for more than two and a half minutes. As a result, the company has planned to launch Electron from their site in New Zealand in the middle of this year. If all goes well, Electron will send satellites made by Spire into Earth orbit over the course of twelve missions from late 2016 to 2017.

 

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Beittil    403

Funny how they try to compare the rocket based on its full cost to a customer, rather than giving a price per kilogram lifted... Duh, of course it is much much cheaper per unit, but it can barely lift a fart in comparison :/

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DocM    13,438

True, however 150 kg gets you a lot of bang per buck these days, and that's going to continue to improve rapidly what with satellite buses being printed using carbon composites, shrinking electronics, chip size phased array antennae, ion microthrusters etc. AIUI, the SpaceX data constellation birds will be about this size.

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Unobscured Vision    2,276

I'm all for improved manufacturing techniques and better/cheaper ways to get payloads uphill. That's just a natural evolution of business and technologies.

 

They have a niche role that they can fill -- light payloads -- where/when using larger vehicles and launch providers isn't appropriate. "See a need, fill a need". But, I would suggest that they don't get on anyone's bad side like SpaceX, ULA and others in the field who could potentially help them out if they run into problems or need some technical expertise down the road.

 

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Jim K    9,560

Sooo...are they going to release the STL files so we can print our own? :p

 

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DocM    13,438

Dunno how Firefly could get on SpaceX's bad side as its main team are SpaceX alumni. That and I'm not entirely convinced yet that Firefly isn't a closet spin-off of Falcon 1. Their first office was right down the block from Hawthorne, and they're talking about launching around Brownsville.

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Unobscured Vision    2,276
21 minutes ago, Beittil said:

Funny how they try to compare the rocket based on its full cost to a customer, rather than giving a price per kilogram lifted... Duh, of course it is much much cheaper per unit, but it can barely lift a fart in comparison :/

150kg to GTO is actually a pretty decent payload. Can do a lot with that. That's probably 5 Cubesats worth of weight, and a lightweight, spring-loaded dispenser frame to eject the cubesats wouldn't weigh all that much. A good design wouldn't be all that difficult to come up with.

 

Just now, DocM said:

Dunno how Firefly could get on SpaceX's bad side as its main team are SpaceX alumni. That and I'm not entirely convinced yet that Firefly isn't a closet spin-off of Falcon 1. Their first office was right down the block from Hawthorne, and they're talking about launching around Brownsville.

That's what I'm saying, as long as they don't get on anyone's bad side. It was merely a suggestion. :) 

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Beittil    403

I could one day even see SpaceX buying launches from Rocketlab/Firefly simply because it is less of a hassle than building a F9 to replace some of their own sats :p

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DocM    13,438

SpaceX datasats will have a lifetime of about 5 years, all the better to upgrade as tech improves, so with 4025 birds that'll mean replacing about 804/year once the constellation is completed. Not a job for single launches.

 

Odds are they'll use an extended fairing (already in the works) and a stack of MOOG ESPA dispenser rings Iike they used to launch ORBCOMM's birds. This version has a capacity of 4 birds/ring so 3 rings can launch 12. Add rings to increase capacity.  36 or so per launch should be do-able.

 

3stack_Credited.jpg

 

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DocM    13,438

https://rocketlabusa.com/rocket-lab-qualifies-second-stage-of-electron-launch-vehicle/

 

 

Quote

Rocket Lab announced today that it has successfully completed the qualification of the entire second stage of the Electron launch vehicle.

 

The second stages are running at peak performance and are set to fly during the Electron test program scheduled to run throughout the second half of 2016.

 

 

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,276

Love it. That was a great test -- and the Drone flying a nice pan around the test stand like that was equally great. :yes: 

 

Looking forward to seeing more from RL.

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Beittil    403

Lovely sight :) Love the nicely clean and simple design of the test stand to! No mumbo jumbo or distracting features... just plain and efficient!

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DocM    13,438

Yup. These guys look like the real deal.

 

 

 

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Draggendrop    5,175

Planet purchases three launches from Rocket Lab

 

rocketlab-electron-879x485.jpg

Rocket Lab's Electron small launch vehicle. Credit: Rocket Lab 

 

Quote

SAN DIEGO — Rocket Lab, the U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, announced July 12 that it has won a contract for three launches from remote sensing satellite company Planet.

 

The contract covers three dedicated launches of Dove satellites built by San Francisco-based Planet, formerly known as Planet Labs, on Electron vehicles. The companies did not announce terms of the deal, although Rocket Lab quotes a list price of $4.9 million per Electron launch on its website.

 

Mike Safyan, director of launch and regulatory affairs for Planet, said in an interview during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here that the number of satellites that each launch will carry is still being determined, but will likely be between 20 and 25. Each Dove is a three-unit cubesat with a mass of about five kilograms.

 

The schedule for the launches will depend on the development of Electron, which has yet to make its first flight. Safyan said that if the Electron test program goes well, the first Planet launch, likely to sun-synchronous orbit, could be as soon as the second quarter of 2017.

 

Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in an interview that the company is finishing up the commissioning of its launch site on the North Island of New Zealand while working on its first set of launch vehicles. “The vehicle is coming together nicely,” he said. “We have three coming down the production line.”

 

Rocket Lab announced earlier this year that the company planned to carry out its first test launch this summer, but Beck would only say that the first launch would take place “in the coming months.” “We’re working hard to get a couple of flights away this year,” he said.

 

The delay, he said, was not due to any specific issue with the vehicle, launch site, or regulatory issues, as the U.S.-headquartered company works to get a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. “We’re anticipating a few teething issues” when everything comes together on the launch pad, he said, hence the uncertain launch schedule.

 

In addition to Planet, Rocket Lab has a contract for three launches, with options for two more, with Moon Express, a company developing commercial lunar landers. Rocket Lab won a Venture Class Launch Services contract from NASA last year. Spire has also signed a contract for launching some of its satellites on Electron launches, although those will be manifested as secondary payloads.

 

For Planet, the contract represents its first dedicated launch deal. Its satellites have previously been launched as secondary payloads, primarily from the ISS. An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched 12 Dove satellites as secondary payloads in June.

 

The dedicated launch contract, Safyan said, gives Planet flexibility in launch schedule and orbits it previously lacked as secondary payload customers. “That’s a big deal for us,” he said.

http://spacenews.com/planet-purchases-three-launches-from-rocket-lab/

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DocM    13,438

 

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Draggendrop    5,175

It's been a few months but here is a recent article with some data. The article is very long but informative therefore I will post just a snippet and a link...totally out of character for me...:woot:

 

Rocket Lab Aims to Win Cubesat-Launching Race

 

GettyImages-476477932.jpg?interpolation=

Peter Beck, CEO of the private spaceflight company Rocket Lab, holding a Rutherford engine and standing next to an Electron Rocket.
Credit: Phil Walter/Staff/Getty Images

 

Quote

The two-stage Electron rocket, designed and built by Rocket Lab, carries payloads of up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms). It will lift off from the company's private launch facility in a remote part of New Zealand.

 

Beck said Rocket Lab is on track to make its first test launches this year. The Electron's single-engine second stage has been flight-qualified, but the first stage (which uses nine engines) has not. The company already has contracts with four customers, including NASA, and plans to start delivering on those contracts in 2017, according to Beck. For example, Rocket Lab is scheduled to launch two lunar missions in 2017 for the company Moon Express, which is trying to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize.

 

A single flight currently costs NZ$7.6 million (about $5.5 million at current exchange rates). For comparison, each launch of SpaceX's much larger and more powerful Falcon 9 rocket currently costs about $60 million.

 

At least 17 other companies in the U.S. are working on launch vehicles in the same class as Electron (that is, they carry payloads weighing a maximum of about 1,100 lbs., or 500 kg). Three others have announced that they will try to make their first flights in 2017, and two of those companies are also under contract with NASA to fly a payload by the end of 2018. Right now, Rocket Lab is on schedule to stay half a step ahead of its competition, but anyone who follows spaceflight knows that timelines change quickly in that industry.

 

 “Although the privatization of the space industry has promised an easier path to commercial launches, space has remained an incredibly difficult and expensive place to reach,” Beck said in a statement on the company's website. “Electron makes it possible for us to continue to execute on our vision to enable easier access to space."

 

Quote

In 2017, Rocket Lab's first customer launch will carry Planet satellites into orbit. (Customers don't have to pay for a full Rocket Lab launch by themselves, however. Sending up a single cubesat on a shared mission starts at $50,000). If Rocket Lab can reach its goal of launching about one rocket per week, it would mean that a company like Planet would have more opportunities to send satellites to space. The dedicated Electron rocket would also mean more control over when they launch and where they go.

 

One of the biggest reasons Rocket Lab can promise that high flight frequency is that the company owns its own launch range, only recently completed, on the Mahia Penninsula on the northeast coast of New Zealand's North Island. It's relative devoid of air and sea traffic, especially compared with places like Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base a few hours north of Los Angeles, Beck said.

 

Rocket Lab announced completion of the facility on Sept. 27. The company is licensed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to launch every 72 hours, Beck said. (Because the company is U.S.-based, it must receive flight approval from both the FAA and the New Zealand space agency).

Beck is originally from New Zealand, although he says it's just a coincidence that he chose his homeland as the site of the launch complex. He was searching for a location where launches could happen frequently, with the option to schedule a launch on short notice (weeks or days, as opposed to months or years).

 

By having its own launch rage, Rocket Lab is also able to reduce the cost of a launch.

 

"There's a cost sunk in building [the range], but after that it's just maintenance," Beck said. By contrast, using the launch facilities at a place like Cape Canaveral can tack on somewhere around $1 million per launch attempt because they require the support of a large facility that is meant to launch very large rockets, he added.

 

"It's not that they're inefficient," Beck said. "It's just … the range infrastructure is sized to vehicles that are just totally different [than ours], and totally different missions to what we have."

 

From its launch complex, Rocket Lab can send rockets into space at a wide range of angles, from straight up to 39 degrees (this is the widest range of any launch complex in the world, according to Beck). The rocket can put payloads in a sun-synchronous orbit, which means the satellite flies over different sections of the Earth at approximately the same solar time each day (meaning the sun is at the same position in the sky). This can be helpful for Earth imaging satellites because it provides the same lighting conditions in different areas and over multiple days. Planet's satellites will primarily fly in sun synchronous orbits, the company spokesperson said.

 

launch-site-rocket-lab.jpg?1476245047?in

An aerial shot of Rocket Lab's completed launch site in New Zealand.
Credit: Rocket Lab

 

http://www.space.com/34364-rocket-lab-small-satellite-launch-race.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Twitter&utm_campaign=socialtwitterspc&cmpid=social_spc_514648

 

:)

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Beittil    403

I love the aerial shot of their launch site, what an amazing location!

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