Another milestone for New Zealand space industry - Parker


The six-year-old startup Rocket Lab has successfully put a rocket into orbit, and deployed a payload of three satellites.

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

The launch occurred at 5:44 p.m.

Rocket Lab said previously that the results of the "Still Testing" launch, if the rocket "performs nominally", may cause the company to accelerate the Electron program into commercial use. The nine-day launch window opened Friday at 5:30 p.m.

A second attempt took place later the same day, but again had to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

This mission was nicknamed "Still Testing", but unlike the first mission, the objective was not merely to test Rocket Lab's hardware. The company was initially set to launch the satellites in mid-December, but delayed the launch after finding a "power fault" during ground checkouts.

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Peter Beck says the Electron rocket carried commercial satellites into space - but also something else.

Rocket Lab launched the first Electron rocket back in May 2017 from Launch Complex 1 on the coast of New Zealand's North Island, a mission named "It's a Test".

"This success should instil confidence in Rocket Lab's customers, starting a busy 2018 launch schedule". The company is also slated to launch a lunar lander for the company Moon Express, which hopes to mine the Moon for resources someday. The engines were made with 3D printers to save money. Participants have to complete their lunar excursions before March 31st, 2018 in order to win the grand prize money. It aims to develop a low-priced transportation system to allow customers to send payloads, first to the moon, and then to destinations throughout the solar system at an affordable price.

Rocket Lab now has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place in early 2018.

Company CEO and founder Peter Beck says the launch marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space.