RL’s 3rd flight this year launched 7 educational, commercial and military satellites for New Zealand.
Liftoff happened prior to sunset at 4:30 PM. The rocket has 2 stages and is made of carbon structures. 2 and half minutes post-mission initiation, the 1st stage jettisoned whereas 2nd stage helped it reach a parking orbit.
The event was live streamed throughout the first 2 stages. A complex maneuver went well, causing Peter Beck, the CEO, to call it another perfect flight. The payloads measured 80 kg.
Saturday’s mission got delayed by 2 days. This enabled them to replace tracking equipment, which would have destroyed the mission otherwise.
Beck stated that the system was getting older. They were moving to autonomous systems, therefore, only repairs would be done for now so that the equipment remained running. RL’s first launch was a failure, as it destroyed an otherwise perfectly well-functioning rocket. The flaw was discovered to be ground-system related. Apart from this first hitch, all others went successfully.
Beck stated that all missions were checked multiple times. BlackSky GS 3 with payload weight at 56 kg will join BlackSky’s surveillance craft, which is in orbit.
The 3rd satellite would capture over 1000 images daily with a meter’s depth.
LeoStella, a venture between TAS and Spaceflight will build over 20 BlackSkysats in Washington. BlackSky’s sat fleet will revisit the same locations multiple times for analysis purposes. 8 satellites by 2019 and 60 satellites overall are being planned now. The USA’s government would be a likely customer.
2 Prometheus CubeSats were also delivered for US SOC. These are satellites that will test cheap, easily useful communication tech useful for combat forces.
2 CubeSats from Swarm Tech were launched as well. Swarm is preparing low data sat communication fleet useful for text messaging, smart meters, transportation, industrial farming, remote sensors, and connected cars. Swarm’s launches had some irregularities but were eventually cleared.
Rocket Lab has its headquarters in California and operates around 2 factories. One factory builds Electron rocket components and the other factory builds avionics and engines. Beck stated that Rocket Lab would eventually scale up operations.