Rocket Lab's "Don't Stop Me Now" Mission Launches
After a slight delay, Rocket Lab launched their Electron rocket from its New Zealand launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in the early morning. The 55-foot carbon-fiber rocket illuminated the sky as it ascended along its flight path to low earth orbit.
Rocket Lab's relatively small rocket had three customers for this mission, ferrying undisclosed payloads for The National Reconnaissance Office, The Royal Australian Air Force, and NASA. In keeping with Rocket Lab's tradition of quirk mission names, this mission was named "Don't Stop Me Now" after the Queen hit. The name was chosen to honor recently deceased board member Scott Smith who particularly liked the song.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck brings an interesting approach to the launch provider market. The Electron rocket is the only 3D printed rocket in the industry. Lightweight carbon fiber is used to keep weight and cost down and although they don't plan to return rockets to earth in the way SpaceX does with propulsive landing, they do plan to recover and reuse their rockets. The American aerospace manufacturer is working on a system to catch returning first stage boosters with helicopters.
While no attempt was made in this effort during the mission, the first stage was guided through the atmosphere and was ditched into the ocean in one piece. This is done to study the data collected before attempting a catch.
Another successful mission in the books spells good things for the company. With plans to expand their New Zeland facilities underway and the first launch from Wallops Air Force Base in the near future, Rocket Lab fans have a lot to be excited about.