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RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:49 am

This news is a little old now. But the company RocketLab recently had their first launch of their Electron rocket in NZ.

It managed to make it into space but not quite orbit. :( Still a hell of an acheivement for their first flight of a new rocket. With any luck that problem will be fixed shortly and their second launch will be properly orbital. Letting little NZ joing the club of orbital launch facilities. ;)

One of the parts I find really neat is how their resource consent allows them to legally launch up to 120 times a year. Though they're only aiming for 50 times a year to begin with.

Anyways, who knows, maybe in a few decades NZ will contain a whole set of launch facilities into orbit. Taking advantage of the benefits being in the middle of nowhere gives us. *crosses fingers* ... o-space-2/

Rocket Lab broke new ground today when its Electron rocket reached space at 16:23 NZST.

Electron lifted-off at 16:20 NZST from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from from a private launch site in the world.

“It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team,” said Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab. “We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years. We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point. We’ve developed everything in house, built the world’s first private orbital launch range, and we’ve done it with a small team.

“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our programme, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business,” says Beck.

Over the coming weeks, Rocket Lab’s engineers in Los Angeles and Auckland, New Zealand will work through the 25,000 data channels that were collected during. The results will inform measures taken to optimize the vehicle.

“We have learnt so much through this test launch and will learn even more in the weeks to come. We’re committed to making space accessible and this is a phenomenal milestone in that journey. The applications doing this will open up are endless. Known applications include improved weather reporting, Internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data as well as search and rescue services,” says Beck.

Today’s launch was the first of three test flights scheduled for this year. Rocket Lab will target getting to orbit on the second test and look to maximize the payload the rocket can carry.

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. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the United States, and 82 internationally.

Rocket Lab’s commercial phase will see Electron fly already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight.
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Re: RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Tue Jun 06, 2017 3:18 pm

Seems like an interesting company, I wish them good luck. With a bunch of already signed customers they should do fine.
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Re: RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:55 am

Yes well done to them. First effort and getting into space. This makes New Zealand only the 11th country with a proven space launch ability and the smallest nation to do so so far (4.7 million population).

Exciting in that they have the potential to be the most prolific launch platform in the world too (albeit the rockets are small unlike the likes of SpaceX).

Just waiting for Australia to try to claim it somehow... :lol: :duck:
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Re: RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:34 pm

You often read that the trickiest part of a rocket engine is the turbopump, so I was really surprised to learn they use an electric pump, I had never heard of this tech.
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
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Re: RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Wed Jun 07, 2017 2:10 pm

Aesma wrote:
You often read that the trickiest part of a rocket engine is the turbopump, so I was really surprised to learn they use an electric pump, I had never heard of this tech.

They're the first to do it from what I understand. You get a bit of a weight penalty as you have to carry heavy LiPos the whole way up. But the return is in vastly simpler and cheaper fuel and oxidizer pumps as you don't have to worry about the metallurgy to quite the same extent.

It also allows you to say they have battery powered rockets which I love saying to see the WTF? face from people. :p
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Re: RocketLab nearly launches to orbit from NZ

Mon Aug 07, 2017 1:41 pm

A bit of a thread necro but some new info from RocketLab on the launch.

Looks like some people misconfigured some telementary software which is what led to the early shutdown. Nothing wrong with the rocket itself. Here's looking to the next launch of "Still Testing" to get into orbit.

Their press release about it. ... -analysis/

Rocket Lab has completed an internal review of data from its May 25 test flight of its Electron rocket. The review found the launch had to be terminated due to an independent contractor’s ground equipment issue, rather than an issue with the rocket. Rocket Lab’s investigation board has identified the root causes and corrective actions.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the primary body responsible for licensing the launch, has overseen Rocket Lab’s comprehensive investigation and will review the findings.

Rocket Lab’s engineers have spent the last two months working through an extensive fault tree analysis to ensure all factors that may have influenced the outcome of the launch were thoroughly evaluated. The investigation involved the review of over 25,000 channels of data collected during the flight in addition to extensive testing at Rocket Lab facilities in California and New Zealand.

Rocket Lab’s investigation team determined the launch, named ‘It’s a Test’, was terminated due to a data loss time out, which was caused by misconfiguration of telemetry equipment owned and operated by a third-party contractor who was supporting the launch from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1.

Four minutes into the flight, at an altitude of 224 km, the equipment lost contact with the rocket temporarily and, according to standard operating procedures, range safety officials terminated the flight. Data, including that from Rocket Lab’s own telemetry equipment, confirmed the rocket was following a nominal trajectory and the vehicle was performing as planned at the time of termination.

“We have demonstrated Electron was following its nominal trajectory and was on course to reach orbit,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab CEO. “While it was disappointing to see the flight terminated in essence due to an incorrect tick box. We can say we tested nearly everything, including the flight termination system. We were delighted with the amount of data we were able to collect during an exceptional first test launch.

Rocket Lab’s telemetry systems provided data verifying Electrons capabilities and providing us with high confidence ahead of our second test flight. The call to terminate a launch would be tough for anyone, and we appreciated the professionalism of the flight safety officials involved.”

The telemetry data loss that led to the termination of the flight has been directly linked to a key piece of equipment responsible for translating radio signals into data used by safety officials to track the vehicle performance. It was discovered a contractor failed to enable forward error correction on this third-party device causing extensive corruption of received position data. The failure was first indicated by the fact that Rocket Lab’s own equipment did not suffer similar data loss during launch. Further confirmation of the cause was demonstrated when replaying raw radio-frequency data - recorded on launch day - through correctly configured equipment also resolved the problem.

The fix for the issue is simple and corrective procedures have been put in place to prevent a similar issue in future. No major changes to the Electron launch vehicle hardware have been required and the company has authorized the production of four additional launch vehicles as it prepares for commercial operations ahead of the test flight program. Rocket Lab’s second Electron rocket, named ‘Still Testing’, is undergoing final checks and preparations ahead of being shipped to Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 shortly.

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