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Commercial rocket firm uses New Zealand as launch-pad for small satellite deployment

(DW)– Rocket Lab successfully put three small satellites into low orbit on its second rocket launch. The company is looking to capitalize on what it sees as a burgeoning market for commercial satellites.

Rocket Lab, a California-based rocket company, has successfully put three small satellites into orbit via a rocket launched from New Zealand on Sunday.

The 55-foot-long (17-meter) rocket carried a 330 pound (150 kilogram) payload consisting of an earth imaging satellite, as well as satellites for weather and ship tracking — it was launched from the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island.

“Electron is orbital. Successful payload deployment,” the company tweeted.

“Speechless. Just like that, @rocketlab reaches orbit and sets a new bar for launch by reaching orbit on just their 2nd test,” satellite-powered data company Spire tweeted.

Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck, a New Zealander, said the successful launch marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space.

Read more: German intelligence agency gets spy satellite system funds

Deploying customer payloads on a second test flight “is almost unprecedented,” he said.

Smartphone-sized satellites

The company reached space with its first test launch last May but aborted the mission due to a communication hitch.

It now has official approval to conduct three more test launches and hopes to capitalize on an emerging market in delivering small devices — no bigger than a smartphone, into orbit.

Such satellites have a variety of uses — everything from monitoring crops to providing internet service.Rocket Lab is backed by a host of US companies including Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Lockheed Martin, Promus Ventures and Data Collective.

The company aims to provide “frequent launch opportunities for low Earth orbit” with a variety of rocket systems “for fast and affordable payload deployment.”

“This success should instill confidence in Rocket Lab’s customers, starting a busy 2018 launch schedule,” said Kris Walsh, a former director of NASA launch programs for Boeing.

Rocket Lab said it expects launch services to cost $4.9 million (4 million euros) per flight.

Source:: DW

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