. 24/7 Space News .
Small rockets are taking off
By Ivan Couronne
New York (AFP) Nov 2, 2018

In mid-November, a company called Rocket Lab will try to send six small satellites into orbit around Earth -- a fairly banal undertaking, save for the size of the launch rocket.

It is only 17 meters (56 feet) tall and 1.2 meters (four feet) in diameter.

And if all goes well, the US company will send up more than one of its Electron rockets every month in 2019.

Rocket Lab, which was created in 2006, completed a successful test flight in January and is expected this month to be the first of a new generation of companies to declare itself operational in the so-called "small launch industry."

The launch window opens on November 11. Barring a mishap, or another delay after a months-long technical setback, the rocket will blast off from the world's first private orbital launch range in Mahia, New Zealand.

Like Rocket Lab, dozens of start-up companies are developing rockets adapted to send small, micro or nanosatellites -- which weigh anything from a few kilos to a few hundred kilos (pounds) -- into space.

It's a whole new chapter for the "New Space Race," the latest industry revolution begun about a decade ago and based on private, not public, innovation -- especially in the United States.

Rocket Lab's creation has a black carbon composite fuselage with "Electron" emblazoned on the side in white lettering.

Its engine is produced by a 3D printer in California, a move that helped cut costs, the company's chief financial officer Adam Spice told AFP.

Launching from New Zealand also has its advantages over traditional sites in Florida or California: there are not nearly as many planes in the air.

"If you've got no air traffic to clear, we have the ability to launch more frequently than any other place in the planet," Spice noted.

The company has six Electron rockets in production, and is estimating it will carry out 16 launches next year.

- 'A lot more flexibility' -

Rocket Lab's plans are not going to be cheap -- relatively, its rocket is expensive on a per-kilo basis.

But it's holding out the prospect of frequent launches that would help resolve the current backlog.

Nowadays, companies that want to put a small satellite into space are only offered spare space in a rocket launched by SpaceX or Arianespace, which are primarily reserved for bigger, costlier satellites.

The two-stage Falcon 9 operated by Elon Musk's SpaceX is 70 meters tall (more than four times bigger than the Electron) and can carry 23 tons of cargo into space (as opposed to a maximum of 250 kilos for the Electron).

But small rockets should help reduce launch wait times from 18-24 months or more, at the bigger companies, to a mere six months.

Customers are ready to pay for the speedy service: the going rate at Rocket Lab is about $40,000 a kilo, as compared with $3,000 a kilo at SpaceX.

"What you have with the small launch vehicles is you get a lot more flexibility," said Rob Coneybeer, an investor in Vector, one of Rocket Lab's competitors.

Other companies in the small rocket sector include Virgin Orbit, Stratolaunch, and Australia-based Gilmour.

Chad Anderson, the CEO of the Space Angels investment network, says there are about 180 companies working on small rockets.

But, he told AFP, there are only about a dozen worldwide that actually have hardware. And even fewer have the necessary funding.

"Maybe there's like half a dozen that are really credible at this moment," the investor said.

- Numerous applications -

The success of those half-dozen firms will help define how fast the New Space Race shakes out.

In 2009, when SpaceX sent its first satellite into orbit, there were about a dozen private space companies, according to Anderson.

Today, there are more than 375 such firms, which have raised more than $16 billion in funding.

The applications for the technology are numerous -- first of all, in telecommunications, and then in Earth observation, according to participants in the second Space Summit organized by The Economist in New York on Thursday.

Obtaining more precise images of Earth, more frequently, would be something companies in multiple sectors would want, from defense to farming, insurance and finance.

Such satellites could help facilitate everything from repairing gas pipelines to assessing flood damage, for example.

SpaceKnow is already using them to count parked cars at Disney World in Florida or the number of swimming pools in Brazil, as well as to observe activity at 6,000 factories in China.

Such data is scooped up by clients on Wall Street, who use it as a new kind of economic indicator.

For all of these services to be accommodated, more satellites need to be in orbit, and thus more rockets need to be launched. Nearly a decade after the creation of SpaceX, the path to space is getting wider.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

NASA conducts a 'BOO-tiful' RS-25 engine test
Stennis Space Center MS (SPX) Nov 01, 2018
NASA delivered a treat with a full-duration RS-25 engine test Oct. 31, and the shake, rattle and roar of the hot fire kept away any eerie creaks and frightful sounds the Halloween day might have had to offer. A team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services operators conducted the 500-second RS-25 test on the A-1 Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., the fifth hot fire in an engine test series that began in mid-August. The test marked an acceptance hot fir ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Russia plans first manned launch to ISS Dec 3 after accident

Thrusters with additively manufactured components qualified to fly humans on Orion spacecraft

Plant hormone makes space farming a possibility

Installing life support the hands-free way

Rocket Lab enters high frequency launch operations

NASA conducts a 'BOO-tiful' RS-25 engine test

Soyuz launch failed due to assembly problem: Russia

All RS-25 flight controllers delivered for first four flights of NASA's SLS rocket

Five things to know about InSight's Mars landing

Naturally occurring 'batteries' fueled organic carbon synthesis on Mars

NASA launches a new podcast to Mars

NASA will keep trying to contact stalled Mars rover Opportunity

China's space programs open up to world

China's commercial aerospace companies flourishing

China launches Centispace-1-s1 satellite

China tests propulsion system of space station's lab capsules

How Max Polyakov from Zaporozhie develops the Ukrainian space industry

SpaceFund launches the world's first space security token to fund the opening of the high frontier

ESA on the way to Space19+ and beyond

Ministers endorse vision for the future of Europe in space

NUS researchers turn plastic bottle waste into ultralight supermaterial

Physicists name and codify new field in nanotechnology: 'electron quantum metamaterials'

Bose-Einstein condensate generated in space for the first time

Super-computer brings 'cloud' to astronauts in space

NASA retires Kepler Space Telescope, passes planet-hunting torch

Rocky and habitable - sizing up a galaxy of planets

Some planetary systems just aren't into heavy metal

Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form

SwRI team makes breakthroughs studying Pluto orbiter mission

ALMA maps temperature of Jupiter's icy moon Europa

NASA's Juno Mission Detects Jupiter Wave Trains

WorldWide Telescope looks ahead to New Horizons' Ultima Thule glyby

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.