Private space company Rocket Lab has announced a launch date for its next Electron rocket test. Beginning on December 8, a four-hour window will open daily for the launch from the company's facility on the Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand. Carrying a payload of three satellites, it's the first flight of the commercial booster since its not entirely successful inaugural launch on May 25, 2017.
The first Electron launch, "It's a Test," managed to reach an altitude of 224 km (139 mi) after a successful first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition, and fairing separation. However, telemetry contact with the unmanned rocket was lost four minutes into the flight and the range safety officer ordered the booster to self-destruct.
This was followed by a two-month internal investigation of the telemetry data by Rocket Lab, overseen by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which determined that the fault was in a third-party contractor's equipment. This ground-based fault caused a data-loss timeout in a key item of equipment that translates radio signals into data for the range safety officers. The fault corrupted the data and forced the contact loss.
The latest launch, dubbed "Still Testing", will be the first Rocket Lab launch to be live streamed to the public. The Electron will carry an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet and two Lemur-2 weather and ship tracking satellites for Spire.
Though Still Testing is the second of three planned test launches, commercial operations may be moved up if the December flight is successful.
"Electron's first test made history when it became the first orbital-class launch vehicle to reach space from a private launch facility." says Peter Beck, Founder and CEO of Rocket Lab. "We analyzed more than 25,000 channels of data from flight one, and we're eager to learn more from this test flight. This is the first test carrying customer payloads and we'll be monitoring everything closely as we attempt to reach orbit. Once again, we're expecting to scrub multiple times as we wait for perfect conditions and make sure everything on the vehicle is performing as it should."
Source: Rocket Lab
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