Rocket Lab scrubs its June/July launch window

The US company's goal of a flight a month by the end of 2018 now looks like a stretch.
Rocket Lab staff in front of "It's Business Time" on Wednesday (via @peter_j_beck)

UPDATE / June 29: Rocket Lab has scrubbed its current launch window, which was due to close on July 6.

The LA-based company has yet to set a timeframe for another attempt.

It will first assess what went wrong with a motor controller on its Electron Rocket (dubbed "It's Business Time").

The motor controller was the reason for Rocket Lab abandoning its launch attempt on Wednesday, its second since its latest window opened on Saturday — when a tracking satellite issue saw a mission-hold.

The company has now been trying since April 19 to launch its first commercial flight, following a successful test on January 21.

It was also a motor controller issue that saw Rocket Lab abandon its April launch window.

In January, founder Peter Beck told NBR his company was targeting a launch a month by the end of this year, and one every 14 days by the end of next year. Ultimately, he wants Rocket Lab to take full advantage of its regulatory approval to launch 120 times a year. But right now, those targets seem ambitious.

Once it finally does take off the Electron rocket, dubbed "Business Time," will be webcast at:

Webcasts will begin approximately 20 minutes before launch.

The current launch window closes on July 6.

UPDATE / May 26: After overcoming a technical glitch that derailed its first attempt, Rocket Lab has announced a new launch window for its first commercial flight: June 23 to July 6, from 12.30pm to 4.30pm daily.

The Kiwi-American company has also added to the flight's payload. It will now also carry a research satellite created by students (with the help of a philanthropic grant) at six US high schools, plus "Nabeo," a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by a German company called High Performance Space Structure. Nabio will deploy a thin membrane designed to unfurl and "sail" a satellite out of orbit when it reaches the end of its lifespan.

The first commercial flight's manifest was already scheduled to include two Lemur-2 cubesats for launch customer Spire Global whose satellite network tracks everything from weather patterns to tracking shipping.

Although billed as Rocket Lab's first commercial flight, it will actually be second time around for Spire, which also had two cubesats on Rocket Lab's successful January 21 test flight (also on board were a Dove Pioneer Earth-imaging satellite for Planet, plus Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck's pet project, an artificial star).

Rocket Lab's first commercial flight scrubbed 'for a few weeks'

UPDATE / Apr 19: Rocket Lab has delayed its first commercial flight on the eve of its 14-day launch window.

"This week during wet dress rehearsal the team saw some unusual behaviour with a motor controller. With only days between rehearsal and window, we want a little extra time to fully review data, so have decided to roll to the next slot in a few weeks," the company says.

EARLIER / Apr 4:  Rocket Lab has announced the timeframe first commercial launch: a 14-day launch window will open on Friday, April 20.

Over that fortnight, launches will be attempted between 12.30pm and 4.30pm.

Rocket Lab has also hired a chief financial officer: Adam Spice, who will work out of the Huntington Beach, California office.

Mr Spice has previously worked for a number of chipmakers including Intel and Broadcom.

Earlier, Mr Beck told NBR Radio Rocket Lab wants to accelerate its pace until it's launching one Electron every fortnight by the end of this year.

By the end of next year, the target is one launch per week, which would make it the busiest aerospace operator on the planet (and easily the cheapest at about $US5 million a flight).

Rocket Lab is permitted to make up to 120 launches per year, or one every 72 hours.

Kiwi pride in Rocket Lab has to be tinged by the fact it's now registered in the US, thanks to Lockheed Martin and others buying in, and headquartered in LA.

Earlier this year, its press statements began starting with the phrase, "Rocket Lab, a US aerospace company with operations in New Zealand ..."

A press release today leaves out Godzone altogether, beginning, "US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab ..."

Happily, beyond its ownership and PR, there are tangible signs of Rocket Lab expanding in New Zealand, and keeping its Kiwi attitude. 

Rocket Lab already employs about 210 people, most of them in Auckland or Mahia.

Right now, it's advertising for 47 more staff, with 37 open positions in Auckland, eight in Los Angeles and two in Mahia.

And, following a social media poll, the first commercial Electron launch vehicle will be named after Flight of the Conchords' song It's Business Time.

Watch the full video on Peter Beck's NBR Radar profile by pressing the play button

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