Private space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and now Rocket Lab make rocket science seem like, well…not like rocket science. Nowadays, privately developing rockets and launching them into space is no longer just the playground of bigger aeronautics companies or space agencies. Rocket Lab’s successful launch of its Electron rocket on Wednesday, May 24 from the company’s new commercial spaceport in New Zealand proves this.
“We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a press release. “We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point. We’ve developed everything in house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team.”
— Rocket Lab (@RocketLabUSA) May 25, 2017
The Electron is Rocket Lab’s first two-phase, orbital-class rocket designed to carry smaller payloads into space — a market, so to speak, which the relatively young space company wants to capitalize on. Concretely, their goal is to be the world’s cheapest, but still reliable, option for launching satellites into orbit. With satellites becoming smaller and smaller, the Electron could be a perfect advancement.
Rocket Lab wants to be the Uber of spaceflights, so to speak, as it recently partnered with the Seattle-based company Spaceflight, which arranges shared rides for satellites and other small payloads. These small satellites have become crucial, especially in improving the world’s communication networks and infrastructure.
However, as what usually happens with initial launch tests, not everything went as well as Rocket Lab hoped. For one, while the rocket did reach space, the Electron wasn’t able to get into orbit as originally hoped. “We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our [program], deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business,” Beck explained.
“We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come,” he added.