This weekend, a small rocket company will try to start its first commercial mission.
It will not be as spectacular as the pristine flight of the powerful Rocket Heavy SpaceX Rocket in February that fueled Elon Musk's sports car on a trajectory outside of Mars. But Rocket Lab & # 39; s Electron is the harbinger of a new variant of the rocket – a small, cheaper one that can be launched frequently – which may be much more important in the future in which companies send swarms of smaller satellites into orbit.
When is the premiere and how can I watch it?
Rocket Lab will be streaming launch on the Internet from its start page in New Zealand.
The start window extends to nine days, four hours each day. The The first opportunity will take place on Sunday at 16.50. New Zealand time. (In the United States it will be Saturday, and it will be a late party, or 10:50 am Eastern time).
What does the rocket contain?
There are seven charges, all small satellites. These include two ship tracking satellites for Spire Global; a small satellite for monitoring climate and environment for GeoOptics; a small probe built by high school students in Irvine, California; and a drag-sail demonstration version that would extract non-existent satellites from orbit.
Why is the electronic rocket so small?
Like the technology on Earth, satellites are getting smaller, and now you can run them on smaller rockets. Companies and governments now also see the benefits of designing small satellite constellations to perform tasks that were once served by one giant, expensive satellite. Thanks to this approach, the failure of one satellite can be eliminated by moving around the other satellites. It is faster and cheaper to send a replacement.
What other companies are building small rockets to launch smaller satellites?
There are at least 150 companies working on small rockets, although they will probably never get off the ground.
Some of the most promising are Virgin Orbit, initiated by billionaire Richard Branson; and Vector Launch and Firefly Aerospace, started by SpaceX graduates.
Two other promising companies are Relativity Space, which wants to print most of its 3-D rockets and Gilmour Space, based in Australia.