US small satellite launch company Rocket Lab has successfully deployed satellites to orbit for NASA, which lifted off from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula.
The mission, the 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa-19), took place just a month after Rocket Lab's last successful orbital launch.
It's the company's third orbital mission of 2018, launching a total of 24 satellites to orbit in the year.
After being launched to orbit, Electron's Curie engine-powered kick stage separated from the vehicle's second stage and, just under an hour into the mission, 13 satellites were individually deployed to their designated orbits.
“The ELaNa-19 mission was a significant one for NASA, the Rocket Lab team and the small satellite industry overall. To launch two missions just five weeks apart, and in the first year of orbital flights, is unprecedented. It’s exactly what the small satellite industry desperately needs, and Rocket Lab is proud to be delivering it. Regular and reliable launch is now a reality for small satellites. The wait is over,” said Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck.
“We’re providing small satellite customers with more control than they’ve ever had, enabling them to launch on their own schedule, to precise orbits, as frequently as they need to.”
Launch opportunities for small satellites have traditionally been limited to rideshare-type arrangements, with this mission being the first time NASA CubeSats received an individual ride to orbit on a commercial launch vehicle, coming about because of a Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) Agreement.
“The CubeSats of ELaNa-19 represent a large variety of scientific objectives and technology demonstrations. With this the first launch of a Venture Class Launch Service on the Rocket Lab Electron, NASA now has an option to match our small satellite missions with a dedicated small launch vehicle to place these satellites in an optimal orbit to achieve big results,” said NASA ELaNa-19 mission manager Justin Treptow.
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