|Space Launch Report: Rocket Lab Electron Data Sheet|
|Home On the Pad Space Logs Library Links|
|Rocket Lab Electron
Rocket Lab was founded in New Zealand in 2007 by Peter
Beck. It launched a sounding rocket named Atea 1, the first private launch to space in the
Southern Hemisphere, in November 2009. In December 2010, Rocket Lab won a U.S.
contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) to study low cost small
Rocket Lab announced its Electron plans to the world in
2015. NASA awarded the company a Venture Class Launch Services contract on October
31, 2015. The $6.95 million contract was for the launch of a NASA payload to low
earth orbit on the fifth Electron, at the time expected to fly between late
2016 and early 2017.
Electron was designed to orbit small satellites for about $4.9 million per mission. The design adopted innovative carbon composite tanks to hold both the kerosene fuel and the cryogenic liquid oxygen oxidizer. Nine Rutherford engines, each producing 1.739 tonnes of sea-level thrust at a 303 second vacuum specific impulse, powered the first stage. A single Rutherford Vacuum Engine powered the second stage, producing 2.268 tonnes thrust at a 333 second specific impulse.
Electron weighs 12.55 tonnes at liftoff, rising on 15.65
tonnes thrust. It is 1.2 meters diameter and stands stand 17 meters tall. Its
first stage is 12.1 meters tall, the second stage 2.4 meters, and the payload fairing 2.5
meters. The rocket is designed to lift 150 kilogram payloads to a 500-kilometer
Electron Second Stage with Rutherford Vacuum Engine
Rocket Lab delivered its first Electron vehicle to Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 at Mahia on February 16, 2017. A series of tests were planned before the rocket, named "Its a Test", would be ready to fly. It would be the first of three planned test flights before Rocket Lab begins flying payloads for paying customers.
On March 22, 2017, Rocket Lab announced that it
had garnered $75 million in new financing, bringing its total to $148 million. It
also announced that it was opening an office in Huntington Beach, California that
included production floor space.
Electron Inaugural Falls Short of Orbit
Electron Inaugural Falls Short of Orbit Rocket Lab's Electron rocket fell short of orbit in its inaugural test launch from New Zealand on May 25, 2017. The new small launch vehicle, named "It's a Test", lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island at 04:20 UTC. The 17 meter tall, 1.2 meter diameter rocket, its innovative carbon composite case propellant tanks filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen, was slated to steer toward a south, south-east azimuth, rising on about 15.65 metric tons of thrust from its nine equally-innovative, electric-motor-pump-fed Rutherford engines.
Electron carried test instrumentation, rather than a revenue payload, on this test flight. The launch was not broadcast live and post-launch information was limited. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO, reported that Electron had a good first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition, and fairing separation, but orbital velocity was not achieved. A 300 x 500 km x 83 deg orbit was planned.
The company did not give a cause for the failure. It did release several videos showing portions of the first stage flight. An on-board video showed a roll developing during ascent. Plans called for the first stage to burn for 2 minutes 30 seconds. Stage separation was to take place four seconds after first stage shutdown. The second stage's single vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine was then slated to fire for 4 minutes 48 seconds to reach orbital velocity.
The launch took place after several days of weather delays. Although orbit was not achieved, Mr. Beck expressed satisfaction with the results of the heavily instrumented test flight- the first of three such test flights currently planned.
(January 25, 2018 Update)
On January 24, Rocket Lab announced that a fourth payload, also previously unannounced, had been orbited, apparently accounting for a third object tracked in the 300 x 500 km orbit. The Rocket Lab payload, named Humanity Star, was "a geodesic sphere made from carbon fibre with 65 highly reflective panels". The spinning payload should relect sunlight to create a flashing effect visible to ground observers.
The success followed a May 25, 2017 inaugural
failure, when the "It's a Test" rocket developed a
roll, followed by misconfigured telemetry equipment
losing contact with the rocket about 4 minutes after
launch, causing a range safety flight termination.
* LEO: Low Earth
Electron Launch Log
ELECTRON ORBITAL SPACE LAUNCH LOG DATE VEHICLE ID PAYLOAD MASS(t) SITE* ORBIT* ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 05/25/17 Electron 01 It's a Test MA 1 [FTO] 01/21/18 Electron 02 Still Testing 0.013 MA 1 LEO  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Inaugural launch. Failed to orbit.  Dovesat to 290 x 530 km x 82.92 deg orbit, then unannounced monoprop kick stage fired its 12.2 kgf "Curie" engine at T+48-49 min to insert two Lemur-2 cubesats into roughly 490 x 530 km orbits. Site Code: MA = Mahia Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand Orbit Code: EEO/M = Molynia (12-hr) Elliptical Earth Orbit FTO = Failed to Orbit FSO = Failed Suborbital GTO = Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit GTO+ = Supersynchronous or High Perigee Transfer Orbit GTO- = Subsynchronous Transfer Orbit GTOi = Inclined GTO GEO = Geosynchronous Orbit HCO = Heliocentric (solar) Orbit HTO = High Earth Transfer Orbit LEO = Low Earth Orbit LEO/S = Sun Synchronous Low Earth Orbit LEO/P = Polar Low Earth Orbit MEO = Medium Earth Orbit MTO = Medium Earth Transfer Orbit SUB = Suborbital xxx References
Rocket Lab Web Site, Electron Launch Vehicle Description, Viewed April, 2017
Last Update: January 25, 2018