New Zealand company's rocket deploys small satellites

Rutherford Engine – via Rocket Lab

New Zealand successfully launched a rocket into orbit on Sunday, becoming the 11th country to achieve the feat.

In its successful launch yesterday, the company initially said it had reached stage separation, before tweeting the rocket had successfully made it to orbit. Company representatives said ahead of the first launch window's opening that they were anticipating delays, and wanted to wait for ideal conditions to conduct the test.

Rocket Lab had to sit out a December launch opportunity due to weather worries and technical snags.

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The Electron rocket, built with 3D-printed engines and a mostly composite construction, is designed for rapid manufacture and a high launch rate. The nine-day launch window opened Friday at 5:30 p.m.

California-based company Rocket Lab said its Electron rocket, which carries only a small payload of about 150 kilograms (331 pounds), successfully deployed an earth imaging and two other satellites for weather and ship tracking after blastoff from the Mahia Peninsula on North Island's east coast.

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. 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. The successful launch has enormous implications for the#Small Satellite market and for one company's dream for landing on the moon.

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"Very nice launch. My heartiest congratulations to the Rocket Lab team".

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told SpaceNews that the succesful launch meant the company would move forward with commercial missions. They're thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after their first test launch. But Rocket Lab does have five completed Electron rockets available, and expects to fly again in "early 2018".

The company hopes to begin commercial launches next year and eventually launch one rocket every week.

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