Rocket Lab launches second successful flight

Rocket Lab launches second successful flight

Rocket Lab had their first foray into space three years ago with the launch of the Atea-1 suborbital sounding rocket.

The company's first test launch took place on May 25, 2017, reaching space but not achieving orbit.

US aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab reached orbit for the first time with its second test flight of the Electron orbital launch vehicle, dubbed "Still Testing", the company announced Sunday.

Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck said the launch marked the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space.

Although New Zealand-founded, Rocket Lab lists itself as an American company with headquarters at a wholly-owned New Zealand subsidiary.

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

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

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This is Rocket Lab's second attempt at this mission.

Still Testing was carrying a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship tracking company Spire.

In the coming weeks, Rocket Lab engineers would analyse data from the launch. However, because the launch vehicle is so cheap to manufacture, Rocket Lab can charge $5 million to put a payload into space, placing spaceflight within the range of smaller, less deep-pocketed customers.

The US/New Zealand company has developed revolutionary technology which allows for rocket launches at a fraction of the price of a conventional launch. But there has been a great demand for small rockets that can carry tiny satellites. The engines were made with 3D printers to save money.

Richard Easther, a professor of physics at the University of Auckland, told Stuff.co.nz that Sunday was a "red-letter day for New Zealand," thanks to the Electron's orbital success.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history. Its smaller size is meant to increase affordability and launch flexibility for customers with smaller payloads.

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