Rocket lab’s 10th mission, also known as ‘running out of fingers’ was launched on Dec 6 from New Zealand. This mission made the boosters bring back to Earth so that they can be reused. To date, Rocket lab has successfully launched seven satellites in the orbit. A two-stage electron rocket lifted off, carrying six microsatellites and one artificial meteor spacecraft. The rocket lifted off from the launch site at 3:18 am (9:18 pm, according to New Zealand time). Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, said that this first mission will help them to gather data and iterate for their second full recovery launch. SpaceX and Blue Origin have earlier reused boosters. The 17 meters electron is not enough for propulsive, vertical landings like Falcon 9 of SpaceX or New Shephard of Blue Origin. Equipment was updated with navigation, new guidance, and reaction control system for the booster to get down Earth.
The purpose of using booster again is to increase the frequency of launches and not about cost-cutting. About 70% of the time and money is spent on building the first stage electron. The company wants to increase its productivity, and that’s the sole reason for this reusability. The company aims to launch one satellite per week with an electron that will cost about $5 million and 227 kg of payload. The meteor satellite was provided by Tokyo based company Astro Live Experiences who also performs live sky shows like Olympics. The other six satellites were 5 cm microsatellites, which were manufactured by Alba Orbital. These six satellites represent five different countries and a range of different technological demonstrations.
Apart from this rocket recovery, the company has planned many other launches like python satellite platform in 2020. The company will open its second launching site in Virginia’s island. This launch was planned for 29 Nov, but due to some tests in the New Zealand launch site, it got delayed.