US aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab reached orbit for the first time with its second test flight of the Electron orbital launch vehicle, dubbed “Still Testing,” the company announced Sunday.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in commercial access to space. We’re thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after our first test launch,” Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck said in a statement.
The small-satellite booster lifted off at 2:43 pm local time (0143 GMT) from the company’s Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand.
“Still Testing” carried a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for launch customer Planet, as well as two Lemur-2 satellites for weather and ship tracking company Spire. The launch was Chicago Cubs Custom Jersey delayed 24 hours after two ships encroached into the launch’s offshore keep-out zone.
Following successful first and second stage burns, Electron reached orbit and deployed customer payloads at 8 minutes and 31 seconds after lift-off.
“Reaching orbit on a second test flight is significant on its own, but successfully deploying Chicago White Sox Custom Jersey customer payloads so early in a new rocket program is almost unprecedented,” said Beck.
This test flight of the Electron marked an important step toward the company’s goal of entering into commercial operations in 2018.
The company’s first test launch took place on May 25, 2017, reaching space but not achieving Click Here orbit. It was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world.
Rocket Lab currently has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place in early 2018, according to the company.
The Electron can carry up to about 225 kg of payload. Its smaller size is meant to increase affordability and launch flexibility for customers with smaller payloads.