Rocket Lab has put last month’s launch failure behind it with a successful launch on Monday.
The company’s previous mission ended in failure in July when a faulty electrical connection within the second stage of its Electron rocket caused an engine shut-down and the rocket to burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere.
But there was no repeat on Monday when its thirteenth orbital launch from the Māhia Peninsular near Gisborne went without hitch.
The company confirmed shortly after 4pm that it had successfully deployed the rocket’s payload – a 100kg Sequoia satellite built by United States firm Capella Space.
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The satellite is designed to use a sensitive form of radar – synthetic aperture radar (SAR) – to build up 3D scans of the Earth’s surface that are capable of detecting the movement of objects as small as 50 centimetres in diameter, even under cloud cover or at night.
Capella signed a contract with the US Department of Defense in May to provide SAR data to the US Navy and also has partnerships with the US Air Force and the US National Reconnaissance Office.
Rocket Lab said the satellite could be used for agricultural and infrastructure monitoring and disaster response and recovery, as well as for security purposes.
Its orbit would maximise coverage of “important areas” such as the Middle East, Korea, Japan, Europe, South East Asia, Africa, and the US, it said.
Speaking ahead of Monday’s launch, Rocket Lab spokeswoman Morgan Bailey said nerves were “part and parcel of every launch day”.
“But the team spends countless hours testing, analysing, re-testing and rehearsing for mission success so we’re well prepared for today,” she said.
Rocket Lab cemented its own ties to the defence establishment this month, with former US undersecretary of defence Mike Griffin joining Rocket Lab’s board.
Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said Griffin, who also previously worked at Nasa, brought “a wealth of knowledge and experience from the civil, defence and commercial space sectors”.
World news – US – Rocket Lab back on track with ‘perfect mission’