Today, US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab could attempt something it’s never tried before: a commercial launch of its Electron rocket. This will only be the Electron’s third flight and the first of what the company hopes will be monthly launches by the end of the year. If the launch is scrubbed today, check back in tomorrow… and the next day. Every day for the next 14 days, the company will attempt a launch within a four-hour window that starts at 8:30PM ET. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket is small for a rocket. At just 55 feet tall, it’s a fraction the height of SpaceX’s 230-foot-tall Falcon 9. But the Electron can afford to be diminutive because it’s built for putting small payloads that weigh between 330 and 500 pounds into low Earth orbit. The launches have a small price tag, too: just $4.9 million a pop. That’s because Rocket Lab aims to get small satellites into orbit quickly and often. After all, the small satellite business is booming; companies like Planet are sending up dozens of satellites in a single launch to monitor the Earth. In May 2017, Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket to space for the first time, but the vehicle didn’t make it to orbit. After analyzing the data from that abbreviated test, the company concluded that a communications glitch on the ground had cut the flight short. A stretch of bad weather delayed the company’s second test flight, dubbed “Still Testing.” But in January 2018, the rocket… [Read full story]
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