Rocket Lab, the New Zealand-based rocket company that is looking to further amplify the commercial space frenzy, is launching its first fully paid payload atop an Electron rocket tonight — technically tomorrow morning at the launch site. If successful, it will mark a significant new development in the highly competitive world of commercial launches.
Liftoff is planned for 2:10 in the morning local time in New Zealand, or 7:10 Pacific time in the U.S.; the live stream will start about 20 minutes before that.
The Electron rocket is a far smaller one than the Falcon 9s we see so frequently these days, with a nominal payload of 150 kilograms, just a fraction of the many tons that we see sent up by SpaceX. But that’s the whole point, Rocket Lab’s founder, CEO and chief engineer Peter Beck told me recently.
“You can go buy a spot on a big launch vehicle, but they’re not very frequent. With a small rocket you can choose your orbit and choose your schedule,” he said….