California-based startup Rocket Lab launches first commercial mission

Rocket Lab to Launch 1st Commercial Mission Tonight Watch It Live

Company Rocket Lab successfully launched the first commercial launch of ultra-light missile Electron.

The rocket orbited six satellites companies Spire Global, Fleet Space Technologies, GeoOptics Inc. and the Irvine STEM CubeSat program, under which California students are doing small satellites.

The Electron rocket is 1.2 metres in diameter and 17 metres in height. It tried to start in may 2017, but because of problems in the telemetry, the launch was unsuccessful.

It's part of the Kiwi-American company's plan to grab as much aerospace business as possible over the next four years - a period when various organisations want to launch 2600 satellites - or more than US$3b worth of flights. The company plans to be ready to launch rockets weekly in 2020.

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

As CNBC noted, the Electron rocket is created to carry spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator on a faster timetable than larger competitors like SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, though it actually costs more than the latter.

"We will be in space less than few months after making the decision to join the mission".

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The launch occurred at 4:50pm local time (03:50 UTC) on Sunday, from New Zealand's Māhia Peninsula.

"It's game on", said Peter Beck, the company's founder and chief executive officer, in an interview outside of Rocket Lab's mission control in Auckland. Its remote location should allow Rocket Lab to launch frequently - the company hopes to get to one launch a week and then to one every three days - as air and boat traffic are relatively low.

Now the company intends to attempt a final commercial launch this year, before setting an ambitious goal of 16 launches for the year 2019.

"Anybody that owns a rocket company and tells you it's smooth sailings from here is living in a different world", Beck said.

Beck says next year, there will be a ride-share flight about once a quarter to mop up smaller customers, but other flights will be each dedicated to a single larger satellite.

The company was started by Beck, a largely self-taught engineer, who dreamed of building rockets since his childhood growing up on New Zealand's South Island. "Can they get to market?"

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