American company Rocket Lab is going to launch their Electron rocket this week using New Zealand’s latest launch complex placed on Mahia Peninsula near North Island.
This will be real test of alternative approach for rocket design. Electron is lightweight small launch vehicle made mostly of aircraft alloys and carbon fiber and equipped with nine Rutherford rocket engines with significant number of parts made in 3D printers. Rutherford engines has fueling system electrically powered and using the electric pump feed cycle. Engines are fueled with RP-1/LOX and are significantly less complicated and cheaper comparing to ordinary rocket engines. These are one of few rocket engines designed from the beginning with low unit price as a main objective.
Electron rocket long for 17 m with 1.2 m of diameter will be launched from Launch Complex 1 with 24 h of delay caused by poor weather conditions. Special announcement was given by Rocket Labs and it was officially confirmed that launch will be performed around 09:00 UTC on Monday.
Rocket will be launched in its maiden flight and it was planned to reach SSO and altitude of 500 km . Its main payload is set of sensors and instrument fitted into container which will help in better analysis of the flight. Both stages of the rocket will operate to test propulsion, separation system, guiding system and flight control system. First stage powered by nine engines generating 162 kN of thrust will deliver second stage to specified altitude, where upper stage will ignite its single engine providing 22 kN of thrust. Upper stage after reaching 500 km altitude will deploy payload (basically set of sensors and scientific devices). Whole mission is planned to last 7 minutes 32 seconds, first stage will fall into dropzone in the Tasman Sea. Upper stage will remain on orbit until it will perform destructive reentry in following months.