WASHINGTON – A Rocket Lab Electron rocket successfully placed 10 satellites in orbit for two customers who lost payload on a launch fault earlier this year.
The Electron rocket took off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 1 p.m. 17.21 East 28 October. The rocket’s kick phase deployed its payload on 10 satellites in a 500 kilometer solar synchronous orbit about an hour later.
The primary payload at launch, called “In Focus” by Rocket Lab, was a set of nine SuperDove cube sets for Planet that reinforced the company’s constellation of image satellites. The second payload was CE-SAT-2B, an imaging microsatellite developed by Canon Electronics as a technology demonstration for future satellites and whose aircraft was hosted by the launch service company Spaceflight.
Both Planet and Canon had payloads on Rocket Labs Electron launch bug in July, which also carried a satellite to the British company In-Space Missions. Rocket Lab blamed this fault on an “irregular electrical connection”
“Electron has once again delivered a smooth ride to the circuit and precise deployment for our individual rideshare customers,” said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, in a statement after the launch.
The launch was the 15th flight of the electron. Rocket Lab said in its statement that the next electron launch will take place “in the coming weeks” from New Zealand. The company also has an electron awaiting launch at its new Launch Complex 2 on Wallops Island, Virginia, but has not announced a launch date.
The launch, like other U.S. headquarters at Rocket Lab, was licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. During an Oct. 27 panel discussion at the American Astronautical Society’s Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium, Wayne Monteith, associate director of commercial space transportation at the FAA, noted that the launch of Rocket Lab would set a record for the most FAA-licensed launches in a month at 6 p.m. . The other launches in October include three SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, a Northrop Grumman Antares launch and a suborbital launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard.
The previous record of five licensed launches in one month was set just two months earlier. August also saw three Falcon 9 launches and an electron launch along with a “jump” test of a SpaceX Starship prototype performed under an FAA license.
Both items are signs of increasing commercial launch activity, Monteith argued. “We have already in the FAA licensed more launches this fiscal year than we did in fiscal year ’09, ’10, ’11 or ’12, ‘” he said. The current fiscal year started on October 1st.