Rocket Lab's Electron booster reaches orbit
New Zealand officially joined the ranks of spacefaring nations today as Rocket Lab's Electron booster reached orbit in the first successful commercial space launch in the southern hemisphere. At 1:43 GMT, the composite-bodied, two-stage rocket lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 located on the tip of the Māhia Peninsula on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand carrying a payload of mini satellites, which it successfully delivered to Earth orbit.
Today's "It's Still a Test" launch followed a series of aborts since the company began its new mission attempts on December 8, 2017. The latest occurred yesterday when two sea vessels entered the launch exclusion area off the coast, resulting in a range safety shutdown. Finally, under partly cloudy skies with high-altitude winds, the rocket successfully lifted off from the pad as it nine Rutherford engines generated 34,500 lb of thrust.
The flight went off without a hitch with first stage shutdown at two minutes and 30 seconds, followed by second stage separation and ignition six seconds later. After eight minutes, the second stage reached a 300 x 500 km (186 x 310 mi), 83º injection orbit. Its payload of an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire for weather and ship tracking, then deployed.
A previous Electron launch attempt on May 25, 2016, "It's a Test" reached space, but the flight suffered from a ground malfunction that caused a loss of telemetry that required the range safety officer to order the rocket to self-destruct.
The video below is the live feed from the launch.
Source: Rocket Lab