Meet Electron, the rocket launching from New Zealand

Rocket Lab successfully completes 'It's a test' flight

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

All launches are beautiful, watching the lift off over the beach with the white contrail against the sky.

Then Rocket Lab stepped up the launch-viewing game.

An Electron rocket blasted off Thursday over the lush-green Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, becoming the first orbital-class rocket to do some from a private launch complex.

The south Pacific Ocean provided a beautiful landscape for a test flight of the commercial rocket, plainly called "It's a test."

Thursday’s maiden flight was a major milestone for Rocket Lab. The California and Auckland-based company plans to eventually start launching weekly.

Electron made it into space after blast off with a clean first-stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation, but not quite into orbit.

“We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however, reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said.

The test flight is the first of three test flights scheduled this year. 

“It has been an incredible day and I’m immensely proud of our talented team,” Beck said after the launch. “We’re one of a few companies to ever develop a rocket from scratch and we did it in under four years.”

 

Electron is designed to carry small payloads into orbit, weighing up to 330 pounds. The sleek black appearance is because of the carbon composite materials wrapping the rocket instead of paint.

A flight on an Electron starts at $5.5 million. 

Rocket Lab has contracts with NASA, Moon Express, Spaceflight, Spire and Planet.

The ride-sharing space company Spaceflight announced last week it had purchased a Rocket Lab Electron rocket.

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