Rocket Lab has completed the world’s first private orbital launch complex, Launch Complex 1. Located on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, Launch Complex 1 is set to enable the highest frequency of space launches in history. The facility will be the primary site for launches of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, designed to lift a 150 kg payload to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit.
New Zealand’s remote island location and low volume of marine and air traffic create ideal conditions for frequent launch opportunities. In addition, launches from the site can access a uniquely wide range of orbital inclinations – from 39 degrees through sun-synchronous.
“Completing Launch Complex 1 is a significant milestone in the build-up to our first Electron test flight,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. “Launch Complex 1 presents a considerable opportunity to change how we access space.”
Facilities at Launch Complex 1 include a vehicle processing hangar where the vehicle will be prepared for launch as well as a 50 ton launch platform. The platform will tilt forward to lift the rocket to a vertical position prior to launch.
Satellites launched from the complex will be used to provide services including optimized crop monitoring, improved weather reporting, internet from space, natural disaster prediction, up-to-date maritime data and search and rescue services.
Rocket Lab has completed major milestones this year with the qualification of the 3D printed Rutherford engine, qualification of the second stage of the Electron rocket and the development of major infrastructure including remote tracking, test facilities and the launch site. The company is currently working through the qualification of the first stage of the Electron rocket and will look to begin the test flight phase once qualification and launch licencing are complete.
Electron is Rocket Lab’s latest launch vehicle. Using Electron, Rocket Lab will launch satellites primarily used to provide imaging and communications services. Customers signed to fly on Electron include NASA, Planet, Spire and Moon Express. With a dedicated launch priced at $4.9 million, Electron is the most affordable small satellite launch vehicle.
Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent and dedicated launch opportunities. Since its creation in 2006 by Peter Beck, Rocket Lab has delivered a range of complete rocket systems and technologies for fast and affordable payload deployment. Rocket Lab is a private company, with major investors including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and Lockheed Martin.