Rocket Lab's 1st Commercial Launch in Pictures: 'It's Business Time'!


New Zealand time on Sunday (7:50 p.m. PT Saturday) at Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula. Well, the small launch race is over.

The mission, called It's Business Time (It's time for business), was postponed several times due to technical and weather problems.

It carried six satellites into low earth orbit. Another was built by students at six high schools in Irvine, California, and will be used to gather data around the satellite's performance and used as a teaching aid. How will that revolutionize the industry and expand who will be able to send satellites into space? Fleet has spent all year waiting to hitch rides on rockets from SpaceX and the Indian government, and has been plagued by delays.

The company will try for one more commercial launch in 2018.

This satellite launch mission was nicknamed "It's Business Time", in reference to its fully commercial nature as well as in tribute to one of the songs by Flight of the Conchords, a New Zealand parody-pop duo.

"I don't think anyone thought this was possible", said Flavia Tata Nardini, the co-founder and CEO of Fleet.

"We actually need to make money - and that has been a key focus from day one".

For decades, the main path to space has run through a handful of large, government-backed organizations that charged anywhere from US$150 million to US$300 million per flight.

What is the rocket carrying?

The Electron may be a small booster, but Rocket Lab thinks it can do very big things.

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What other companies are building small rockets to launch smaller satellites?

NASA has also embraced super small satellites.

The new nanotechnology space race started about a decade ago and focuses more on private innovation rather than competition between rival countries. But that's alright with Rocket Lab because they are looking ahead to the emerging field of small satellites, like CubeSats.

Rocket Lab's rivals have not yet pulled off an orbital launch, which means it is at the front of an increasingly crowded pack of rocket startups that want to launch smallsats for businesses and researchers.

It will then try for 16 missions in 2019. Deep inside the factory, workers have a handful of future rockets at various stages of assembly, awaiting their turn to be thrust into space.

Rocket Lab are also constructing a second pad on the East Coast of the US. The 18 total launches planned so far gives Rocket Lab about $3 billion in revenue in the pipeline.

"There is a tremendous transformation that is now underway in the commercial satellite industry as demonstrated by the record number and type of satellites launched in 2017 and the revenue growth in manufacturing, earth observation and satellite broadband revenues", the Satellite Industry Association said in its annual industry report earlier this year. "Can they get to market?"

Its success is partly down to Beck's brainpower, and the one-time Fisher & Paykel Appliance engineer's innovations in engine design and fuel (which are all self-taught; he never went to university).

Developed in-house, Electron is two-stage rocket, with an additional optional kick-stage that can place multiple payloads into different orbits.