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Rocket Lab sends Electron rocket into orbit

Rocket Lab launch
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket rises from its New Zealand launch pad. (Rocket Lab via YouTube)

Rocket Lab’s two-stage Electron rocket successfully reached Earth orbit and deployed satellites for the first time today, raising hopes for far more ambitious missions to the moon.

Today’s mission, which went up from Rocket Lab’s launch complex on the tip of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, followed up on the company’s maiden launch last May — which sent an Electron into space but fell short of reaching orbit due to data transmission issues.

This mission was nicknamed “Still Testing,” but unlike the first mission, the objective was not merely to test Rocket Lab’s hardware. The rocket had the additional task of putting three nanosatellites in orbit: an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites that the Spire space venture would use for tracking ships and monitoring weather.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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