- Rocket Lab Launched the first photon satellite: a spacecraft designed for missions to the Moon, Venus or Mars.
- Called the “First Light”, the spacecraft is just a demo, but NASA has already contracted the Rocket Lab to fly the agency’s robotic moon mission in 2021.
- CEO Peter Beck It is said that the electron rocket and the photon spacecraft together can cut the most difficult parts for sending satellite missions to other planets.
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Rocket Lab, a private rocket company, launched its first satellite this week.
Rocket Lab has been launching other companies’ satellites on electronic rockets since 2018, but it has never launched its own spacecraft into Earth’s orbit.
The spacecraft it launched this week, the first demo of its own photon satellite, is designed to take the technology of other companies and government agencies into space. Gradually, it was able to carry out missions to the Moon, Venus and Mars.
Monday’s launch appeared regularly, similar to the 13 missions previously launched by Rocket Lab. The company’s electron rocket was lifted from the New Zealand launch complex on Monday, scattering unwanted parts while screaming through the air. About an hour later, the remainder of the rock, called the kick stage, made a final move into an orbit above the ground, and the rocket lab deployed a micro-satellite to a company called Cappella Space.
But then something completely new happened: instead of firing boosters to push itself into Earth’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate, and the kick phase would enter its own orbit and enter satellite mode.
“There was a real magical moment, sitting down with the engineers, where we sent a command to the kick stage … a command that turned the kick stage into our first satellite,” said Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck. Video Announcement on Thursday.
The company hopes to expand its photon launch service to include space travel services – customers’ satellite missions will transcend not only the Earth’s atmosphere, but other planets as well. All the customer has to do is turn its hardware into an onboard photon.
If successful, the project could turn Rocket Lab into an end-to-end satellite flight company. For government agencies like NASA, it will play a significant role in the new commercial era of space spacecraft being launched and flown by private companies.
With the help of companies like Rocket Lab, NASA is finally planning to set it up A permanent lunar base, followed by spring-board missions to Mars.
Future photons can travel to other planets – one booked for the moon
Last year, Rocket Lab shared plans to create a new satellite, the Photon. The disk-shaped, single-motor spacecraft is designed for other companies to orbit the Moon, Venus and Mars – including solar cells and navigation hardware.
This was its first launch.
Rocket Lab calls the new spacecraft “First Light.” Beck told reporters that it will remain in orbit for the next five to six years.
“This first photon mission is focused on being a technological demonstrator, to prove all systems and functions – all that is needed to take us to the moon, Venus and beyond,” Beck said. “It also gives our users who are interested in photons the opportunity to check out what we have created.”
Once the service is complete, users can purchase a ready-made photon spacecraft, load it with their mission equipment and pay the Rocket Lab to launch it into space.
From there, the satellite can orbit itself to a path to the Moon, Venus, or Mars.
“Launching the first photon mission was a major turning point for space users – a space mission is now easier to launch and operate than ever before,” Beck said. Statement. “When our users choose a launch-plus-space mission with electrons and photons, they build their own satellite hardware and immediately eliminate the complexity, risk and delay associated with special launches.”
NASA already plans to use the 55-pound, $ 13.7 million photon spacecraft Captain to launch a robotic lunar mission (abbreviated as “Sislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment”). In February, NASA has awarded a $ 9.95 million contract to the Rocket Lab. The mission will begin in 2021 as part of NASA’s Artemis Moon-landing program and will reach lunar orbit in a few months.
Rocket Lab announced Thursday that it has opened a new manufacturing facility in Long Beach, California.
“It’s a powerful platform for people to experiment and use their full potential,” Beck said Told the business insider. “You do not need to build a launcher. You do not need to build a spacecraft. In fact, you do not need to expand your sensor – you can give us a feature. [specification] We will do everything. This is a very different approach to the current state of the art.
Dave Mosher contributed to the reporting.