Rocket Lab launches for fifth time in 2019

Max Blenkin

Rocket Lab has launched its fifth rocket for 2019, placing a satellite in its highest orbit so far.

Rocket Lab launches for fifth time in 2019
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The Rocket Lab Electron rocket blasted off from its New Zealand launch facility on Thursday, a launch delayed for two days because of poor weather.

This carried a single satellite from US company Astro Digital, which was placed into a polar orbit or more than 1,000 kilometres above the Earth.

That’s more than twice the height of earlier Rocket Lab launches.

The satellite, Palisade, is a 16U CubeSat intended to demonstrate an Astro Digital satellite platform called Corvus.

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Palisade is designed to test satellite propulsion and new advanced communications systems, plus third-party flight control software.

Rocket Lab said that it launched Palisade alone on this mission after another, unidentified customer originally scheduled to launch on this rocket requested a delay.

Earlier reports said space company Kleos planned to launch the first four satellites, the Kleos Scouting Mission, aboard the next Rocket Lab October launch.

Kleos, based in Luxembourg and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, plans to launch a constellation of 20 satellites providing global monitoring of maritime radio frequencies.

Rocket Lab said this latest launch showed its launch schedule flexibility and capability to fly to specific orbits.

“No longer do small satellite operators have to accept the limitations of flying as a secondary payload, nor do they have to wait endlessly on the manifest of unproven launch vehicles,” said Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck in a statement after the launch.

“Frequent, responsive and reliable launch is the new norm for small satellites thanks to Electron.”

This was the ninth Electron rocket launch and the fifth so far this year. The company said its next launch, for an undisclosed customer, was scheduled for late November.

This launch was also the first under a new streamlined licence from the US Federal Aviation Administration, which authorises launches for American companies no matter the launch location.

The new licence was issued earlier this month, runs for five years and allows Rocket Lab to conduct series of launches without the requirement to seek an individual licence for each mission, provided that launch is within some standard parameters.

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