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|Industry||Launch service provider|
|Headquarters||Huntington Beach, California, U.S.|
Number of employees
|~200 (December 2017)|
Rocket Lab is an American aerospace manufacturer with a wholly owned New Zealand subsidiary. The company develops lightweight, cost-effective commercial rocket launch services. The Electron Program was founded on the premise that small payloads such as CubeSats require dedicated small launch vehicles and flexibility not currently offered by traditional rocket systems.
The lightweight Electron rocket is Rocket Lab's first launch vehicle, and is explicitly designed to service the small-satellite market with dedicated, high-frequency launch opportunities. Electron is designed to deliver payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit.
The Electron test program began in May 2017, with commercial flights announced by the company to occur at a price listed in early 2018 as US$5.7 million. Launching from Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, the rocket's test flights took place on 25 May 2017 and 21 January 2018,  while its first commercial flight is scheduled on 25 June 2018.
Rocket Lab was founded in 2006 by New Zealander Peter Beck, the company's CEO and CTO. Internet entrepreneur and fellow New Zealander Mark Rocket was the seed investor and co-director from 2007 to 2011. In 2009, Rocket Lab claimed it had become the first private company in the Southern Hemisphere to reach space with the Ātea-1 sounding rocket. The payload was not recovered. This was not deemed necessary. As an instrumentation dart, the payload was not powered; its trajectory depended only on the boost phase of flight. The boost stage was recovered, and did have flight telemetry, on which the claim of reaching space was based.
In December 2010, Rocket Lab was awarded a U.S. government contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) to study a low cost space launcher to place CubeSats into orbit. This agreement with NASA enables the company to use NASA resources such as personnel, facilities, and equipment for commercial launch efforts.
Funding was obtained from Khosla Ventures in 2013, and Callaghan Innovation and Bessemer Venture Partners in 2014. In March 2017, the company announced that it had raised an additional US$75 million in a Series D equity round led by Data Collective with participation by Promus Ventures and several previous investors.
The first launch of the Ātea-1 (Māori for 'space') suborbital sounding rocket occurred in late 2009. The 6-metre (20 ft) long rocket weighing 60 kg was designed to carry a 2 kg payload to an altitude of 120 km. It was intended to carry scientific payloads or possibly personal items.[needs update]
Ātea-1 was successfully launched from Great Mercury Island near the Coromandel Peninsula on 30 November 2009 at 2:30 pm after fueling problems delayed the scheduled 7:10 am liftoff. The rocket was tracked by GPS uplink to the INMARSAT-B communications satellite, which permitted verification of payload apogee above the Kármán line; it touched down approximately 50 km downrange.
The payload had no telemetry downlink, but had instrumentation including the launch vehicle's uplink to INMARSAT. Payload was not required to be recovered, being only a dart, and the company advised that should it be encountered by vessels at sea, the payload should not be handled as it was "potentially hazardous" and contained delicate instruments. However, performance characteristics were completely determined by the boost stage, which did have downlink telemetry and was recovered. A second launch of Ātea-1 was not attempted.
Electron is a two-stage launch vehicle which uses Rocket Lab's Rutherford liquid engines on both stages. The vehicle is capable of delivering payloads of 150 kg to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit, the target range for the growing small satellite market. The projected cost is less than US$5 million per launch.
The Rutherford engine uses pumps that are uniquely powered by battery-powered electric motors rather than a gas generator, expander, or preburner. The engine is also fabricated largely by 3D printing, via electron beam melting, whereby layers of metal powder are melted in a high vacuum by an electron beam rather than a laser.
By April 2016, the 22 kN (5,000 lbf) second-stage Rutherford engine had completed firing tests. The first test flight took place on 25 May 2017 at 04:20 UTC from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island. After reaching an altitude of about 224 km (140 mi), the rocket was performing nominally but telemetry was lost so the decision to destroy it was made by range safety.
On 21 January 2018 at 01:43 UTC, their second rocket named "Still Testing" launched, reached orbit and deployed three CubeSats for customers Planet Labs and Spire Global. The rocket also carried an additional satellite payload called "Humanity Star", a 1-meter-wide (3 ft) carbon fiber geodesic sphere made up of 65 panels that reflect the Sun's light.
After encountering difficulty in obtaining resource consent for the Kaitorete Spit launch site, Rocket Lab announced in November 2015 that its primary launch site would be on the Māhia Peninsula, east of Wairoa in the North Island, New Zealand. The site is licensed to launch rockets every 72 hours for 30 years. The Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 was officially opened on 26 September 2016 (UTC; 27 September NZDT).
Where is Rocket Lab based? [-] Rocket Lab is an American company with headquarters in Los Angeles and a wholly-owned New Zealand subsidiary.
December 2010 - Rocket Lab was awarded a US contract from the Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) to study low cost international alternatives. Included in this study is a 640,000Ns booster, a miniature avionics system and a launch vehicle to place small mass satellites into polar and low Earth orbits.
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