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Rocket Lab catches (and releases) a rocket

Rocket Lab has just joined SpaceX in the club of space companies that can launch an orbital-class rocket booster and bring it back alive.

In a sense, the California-based company one-upped SpaceX by having a helicopter snag the first-stage booster of its Electron rocket with a cable and a hook as it floated past on the end of a parachute, 6,500 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

So what if the pilots of the customized Sikorsky S-92 helicopter had to release the booster moments later, due to concerns about the way their load was behaving as it swung from the hook?

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Rocket Lab lofts satellites for NRO, NASA, Australia

Rocket Lab’s low-cost Electron rocket lofted a bevy of small satellites into orbit tonight for the National Reconnaissance Office, NASA and a project backed by the Australian government and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space.

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Rocket Lab launches top-secret payload for NRO

After waiting out high winds, Rocket Lab’s low-cost Electron rocket launched a top-secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office from New Zealand, halfway around the world from the U.S. spy satellite agency’s headquarters.

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Rocket Lab begins building third launch pad

Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1
An artist’s conception shows Rocket Lab’s Pad 1-B at the upper corner of its Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. (Rocket Lab Illustration)

Just days after officially opening its Virginia launch pad, Rocket Lab announced today that it has started construction of yet another pad at its original New Zealand home base.

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Rocket Lab launches three U.S. military satellites

Rocket Lab launch
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts off from its New Zealand pad. (Rocket Lab via YouTube)

Rocket Lab sent a trio of research satellites for the U.S. military into orbit tonight from a launch pad that’s thousands of miles from America’s shores, in New Zealand.

The Los Angeles-based company’s low-cost Electron rocket lifted off from its seaside launch facility on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 6 p.m. May 5 local time (11 p.m. PT May 4). It was Rocket Lab’s second launch of 2019, and its sixth mission overall.

After liftoff, the Electron’s second stage separated from the first-stage booster, and then released its “kick stage” to deploy the satellites in orbit.

“Perfect flight, complete mission success, all payloads deployed!!” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck tweeted.

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Rocket Lab launches DARPA’s R3D2 satellite

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

Rocket Lab executed its first launch of the year from New Zealand today, sending an experimental satellite into orbit for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The company’s Electron launch vehicle lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula right on time, at 4:27 p.m. PT March 28 (12:27 p.m. local time March 29). Launch had been delayed for several days — first, due to concerns about a video transmission system, and then due to unacceptable weather conditions.

About 50 minutes after launch, the Electron’s kick stage successfully deployed DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration satellite, or R3D2, into a 264-mile-high orbit..

“Mission success! Great kick stage burn and final orbit. Perfect flight!” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said in a tweet.

The 330-pound satellite is designed to unfurl a 7-foot-wide antenna to demonstrate how large structures can be packed within small satellite-size packages.

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Rocket Lab sends 13 satellites to orbit

Rocket Lab liftoff
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket rises from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. (Rocket Lab via YouTube)

Rocket Lab has sent its first payloads for NASA into orbit from its New Zealand launch pad, atop a low-cost Electron rocket powered by 3-D-printed engines.

Liftoff from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula came at 7:33 p.m. Dec. 16 New Zealand time (10:33 p.m. PT Dec. 15), after a two-day delay due to weather concerns.

Ten of the 13 small satellites packed aboard the rocket were funded through NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites program, or ELaNa. The other three came along for the ride, and are designed to test new imaging technologies and study how high-frequency radio signals travel through Earth’s ionosphere.

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Rocket Lab reports $140M in fresh funding

Rocket Lab factory
Electron rockets are made at Rocket Lab’s production facility in New Zealand. (Rocket Lab Photo)

Fresh on the heels of a successful satellite launch, Rocket Lab today announced that it has received $140 million in new investment.

Rocket Lab said the Series E financing round was led by Future Fund and closed last month, well in advance of last weekend’s “It’s Business Time” mission. The Electron rocket launch from the California-based startup’s pad on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula put six satellites in orbit and tested an experimental drag sail for small satellites.

The new round brings Rocket Lab’s total funding to $288 million and puts the company’s valuation well past a billion dollars, extending its status as a startup “unicorn.”

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Rocket Lab puts satellites in orbit from New Zealand

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

Rocket Lab executed its second orbital mission today, sending six small satellites and an experimental drag sail into orbit from an oceanside launch pad in New Zealand.

Liftoff of the Electron rocket came at 4:50 p.m. New Zealand time on Nov. 11 (7:50 p.m. PT Nov. 10) at Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula.

This satellite launch mission was nicknamed “It’s Business Time,” in reference to its fully commercial nature as well as in tribute to one of the songs by Flight of the Conchords, a New Zealand parody-pop duo.

Rocket Lab’s business time had to be postponed twice over the past seven months, due to concerns about a motor controller for the first-stage Rutherford engines. But this time around, the countdown went off without a hitch, and the three-stage rocket rose into the southern sky to enter a pole-to-pole orbit.

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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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