Speculation suggests New Zealand may be the next major hub for space commerce.Within the next week or two, American aerospace company, Rocket Lab, will conduct an important launch
Rocket Lab's launch is the inaugural launch of the company's Electron, a rocket taking off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on North Island.If the launch is successful, it will be the first of a spacecraft launching into space from the Southern Hemisphere.
Rocket Lab, founded in the U.S.in 2006, aims to transform the Mahia Peninsula on North Island into a significant, commercial space hub hosting 120 liftoffs per year at a frequency of one per 72-hour period.Given that the U.S.manages only 25 launches per year, this is an incredibly ambitious schedule that even the space zealot, Elon Musk, might consider extreme.
Rocket Lab's Electron launch system is critical to making this work because it is designed to assume much of the space market's light payload launches.The tiny satellites first launched in 1958 led to modern satellites the size of double-decker buses, but nanosat technology now makes it so that heavier payloads are not always necessary to make breakthroughs in the space industry.
Rocket Lab's objective is to provide customers with a way to throw small satellites of under 150 kg (330 lbs.) into sun-synchronous orbit for approximately $4.9 million.These would be orbits with altitude of about 500 km (310 mi) positioned such that the visible Earth from the spacecraft is always illuminated by the sun's rays.
To do this, the Electron does not aim for relying on reusable rockets, which all the leading space companies are attempting these days; rather, it aims to use cheap boosters contrived of 3D-printed rocket components, which is also groundbreaking.
Photo: NASA/JPL Caltech