Space Start-Up Rocket Lab Completes First Commercial Launch, Nicknamed 'It's Business Time'

Monday, 12 November 2018 - 12:42PM
Technology
Space
Monday, 12 November 2018 - 12:42PM
Space Start-Up Rocket Lab Completes First Commercial Launch, Nicknamed 'It's Business Time'
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Screenshot: YouTube/Rocket Lab
After decades of NASA missions with names like "Apollo" and "Gemini," it's refreshing to see a space mission (or at least a rocket launch) with the name "It's Business Time." That was the designation given to Rocket Lab's first fully commercial launch yesterday, which marked its foray into the private space industry. Though the company is currently focusing on putting small satellites into orbit, their recent launch gives a glimpse of what's next for the commercial space sector.

"It's Business Time," which launched on November 11th from New Zealand's North Island, got its colorful moniker from an online poll that asked fans to come up with the name for the launch. We have a sneaking suspicion that it's a reference to a song of the same name, sung by the New Zealand comedy folk duo Flight of the Conchords (who, incidentally, made a cameo appearance on The Simpsons with Stephen Hawking). Rocket Lab's previous two rocket launches were called "It's a Test" and "Still Testing."

Two of Rocket Lab's key innovations are housed in its flagship launch vehicle, the Electron. The first is 3D printing, including a modified Rutherford rocket engine that's "the first oxygen/kerosene engine to use 3D printing for all primary components." The second is carbon composite materials that make the rocket and its fuel tanks lighter without sacrificing strength.

Rocket Lab definitely isn't going to pose a threat to SpaceX's NASA contracts for manned missions or cargo transport (at least for now), but they do represent a growing trend in the industry to make space launches faster, lighter, and more frequent. According to Peter Beck, the CEO of Rocket Lab: "We came at the challenge of opening access to space from a new perspective...As the satellite industry continues to innovate at a break-neck pace and the demand for orbital infrastructure grows, we're there with a production line of Electron vehicles ready to go and a private launch site licensed for flight every 72 hours. Launch will no longer be the bottleneck that slows innovation in space."

With a total of 11 satellites now in orbit, Rocket Lab is excited about the future. According to Beck: "To complete a test program so quickly and be flying commercial customers is a great feeling. It's business time."

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