New Zealand's Rocket Lab successfully reaches orbit

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
WELLINGTON
Published
The electron rocket, which previously lifted off without any cargo, carried customer payloads this time.
The electron rocket, which previously lifted off without any cargo, carried customer payloads this time.

The Wellington, New Zealand-based space company Rocket Lab successfully launched its rocket, Electron, and deployed satellites into orbit for the first time on Sunday.

"Electron is orbital. Successful payload deployment," the company confirmed on Twitter.

A 17-meter black rocket named "Still Testing" lifted off from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island, the world's first privately owned orbital launch site.

It follows an inaugural test carried out in May in which Electron made it to space but not to orbit after a communication error forced controllers to terminate the flight.

It is the second of three test launches planned ahead of commercial operations, and the first carrying customer payloads.

"This success should instill confidence in Rocket Lab's customers, starting a busy 2018 launch schedule," said Kris Walsh, former director of all NASA launch programs for Boeing.

The industry will be watching Rocket Lab's ability to meet its schedule, but this was a milestone for Rocket Lab, he said.

Rocket Lab's mission is to remove the barriers to commercial space by providing frequent launch opportunities.

Electron uses 3-D printed engines and is designed to send small payloads, such as imaging and communication satellites weighing up to 150 kilograms into space.

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