If you follow rocket science closely, then you might be familiar with the New Zealand-based space startup known as Rocket Lab. The firm is known for their Electron Rocket, which is designed to send objects into Earth’s orbit at a much more affordable cost than most modern rockets can.
Starting at $5 million for a launch, the Electron Rocket launch costs are a far easier pill to swallow for companies who need cargo sent to space than that of a competing rocket manufacturer like SpaceX, which can cost 12 times as much or more, depending on what’s being sent into space.
Image Credit: Rocket Lab/YouTube
The lower price tag comes from the reduction in cost of manufacturing its internal parts, many of which are made via 3D printer, which not only speeds up production, but creates things at a fraction of the cost of hand-making them. Unfortunately, the rocket isn’t reusable like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or Blue Origin’s New Shepard rockets are.
The caveat, of course, is that Electron Rocket is significantly smaller than a Falcon 9 or larger rocket, so it’s limited to what kinds of cargo it can take into orbit around the Earth. It stands about 55 feet in height, which pales in comparison to the Falcon 9’s monstrous 230 feet. Its market is primarily targeting firms that want to send smaller payloads into space.
Electron Rocket hasn’t flown yet, but the company behind its design has already tested the first stage booster in a controlled test-fire and built a fully-functional rocket based off of the tried first stage design that’s ready to make its maiden voyage as early as 5 P.M. Eastern Time this Sunday – May 21st.
The firm isn’t particularly sure what’s going to happen, but is hoping for the best possible outcome. The goal is to make it into orbit around the Earth as the rocket is intended for, but there’s always a chance that it won’t make it because rockets fail and blow up from time to time.
The rocket has already been transported to its destination and been fully assembled, leaving the Rocket Lab team with a 10-day window or favorable weather conditions to test-launch their masterpiece.
According to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck, the firm will not be planning a second Electron Rocket launch until later this Summer, whether the first launch is a failure or a success. The goal is to learn everything they can from the maiden voyage and make any corrections that need to be made.