Flying enormous rockets to outer space isn’t the world’s cheapest endeavor, but it’s a necessary expense for satellite-reliant companies and space agencies that want to learn more about the universe around us.
SpaceX is actively attempting to reduce the cost of spaceflight by modernizing reusable rocket technology, but another startup dubbed Rocket Lab is taking a completely different approach by introducing a scaled-down rocket that uses less fuel with each launch.
Image Credit: Rocket Lab/Twitter
Rocket Lab’s 17-meter-tall Electron rocket pales in a size comparison with SpaceX’s 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 rocket, but it’s ideal for sending smaller payloads into low-Earth orbit. Furthermore, it can do it without the large price tag associated with burning the extra rocket fuel required by the full-sized Falcon 9 rocket.
To date, Electron has only flown twice during scheduled test flights intended to prove its reliability as a space transport vehicle. But Rocket Lab recently announced that it would move forward with its first commercial space launch within the next two weeks.
When it ignites its engines, Electron will ferry four smaller satellites into space for its paying customers, which include GeoOptics and Spire. Two of these satellites are said to track oceanic characteristics, one will monitor weather, and the last will deploy novel space junk removal technologies for testing.
The exact launch date isn’t clear at this point, but Rocket Lab originally planned to launch its rocket on Friday, July 22nd. Unexpected delays arose when engineers discerned a tracking equipment concern, but Electron could now launch any time between now and July 6th within a four-hour window starting at 8:30 A.M. each day.
When the launch takes place, Rocket Lab will live-stream the event from its website for the world to see.
Source: Rocket Lab via The Verge