Auckland, New Zealand. November 11, 2018: Rocket Lab has continued the success of its 2018 orbital launch program with the launch of seven payloads to orbit today. The mission, named ‘It’s Business Time,’ marks Rocket Lab’s second successful orbital launch and deployment of customer satellites.
Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifted-off from Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula at 16:50 on 11 November NZDT (03:50 UTC). Electron’s second stage reached orbit in a 210 km x 500km parking orbit at 85 degrees. The Rocket Lab’s Curie engine powered kick stage then successfully separated and circularised to a 500 km x 500 km orbit. Six satellites were deployed for ‘Rideshare’ customers Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies and the Irvine CubeSat Stem Program. Curie also carried NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator, designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmbH, to passively de-orbit inactive small satellites and reduce space junk.
Rocket Lab founder and chief executive, Kiwi Peter Beck, said the mission marks a new era in access to space.
“The world is waking up to the new normal. With the Electron launch vehicle, rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites. We’re thrilled to be leading the small satellite launch industry by reaching orbit a second time and deploying more payloads. The team carried out a flawless flight with incredibly precise orbital insertion.”
Rocket Lab is poised for high-frequency launches in 2019 thanks to production facilities that enable rapid mass Electron production, as well as a private launch complex licensed to launch up to 120 times per year.
“With two orbital launches down for 2018, we’re not resting on our laurels. We have a burgeoning customer manifest, so we’re moving on to the next mission within a few weeks – the incredibly exciting ELaNa 19 mission for NASA in December,” Peter Beck said.
ROCKET LAB ANNOUNCES $US140 MILLION IN NEW FUNDING
On 15 November Rocket Lab revealed $US140 million of new funding in Series E financing, closed in advance of the company’s second successful orbital mission, ‘It’s Business Time’ on 11 November.
Investors show continued ardent support in pre-‘It’s Business Time’ launch round led by existing backers Future Fund (Australia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund), with participation from current investors Greenspring Associates, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC (Data Collective), Promus Ventures, and K1W1.
New investor, the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand (ACC), also joined the round.
Funding will support continued Electron vehicle production expansion, new launch sites and three new major research and development programs.
The Series E round close brings total Rocket Lab funding to date to more than $288 million (USD), with the company now soaring past its previous $1 billion-plus (USD) valuation.
“It has been a big year for Rocket Lab with two successful missions to orbit and another about to roll out to the pad, but it’s even more significant for the global small satellite industry that now has a fully commercial, dedicated ride to space,” said Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck.
“This funding also enables the continued aggressive scale-up of Electron production to support our targeted weekly flight rate. It will also see us build additional launch pads and begin work on three major new R&D programs.”
The round also follows the opening of Rocket Lab’s new mass production facility for the Electron vehicle last month, as well as the announcement confirming the location of Rocket Lab’s second orbital launch site. Construction has now begun on Rocket Lab Launch Complex 2, which is based within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA.
Launch Complex 2 can support monthly orbital launches from US soil, and is designed specifically to serve the responsive space needs of government customers. Between the two Rocket Lab launch complexes, the company can support up to 130 orbital missions per year.
AN ICE–STRENGTHENED OCEAN PATROL VESSEL (OcPV) FOR THE RNZN
The NZDF Capability Plan 2018 described future NZDF Antarctic operations:
‘As demand increases and resources elsewhere are depleted, international interest in the Southern Ocean’s fisheries, and the risk of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, is expected to increase. Patrolling the Southern Ocean is therefore a high priority. Increased human activity is occurring on the Antarctic continent, in particular scientific expeditions and tourism.
‘The Government will continue to support its international obligations to protect the environment, and respond to search and rescue incidents. Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the number and scope of Defence Force air and maritime operations in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic.
‘The Defence Force currently operates two offshore patrol vessels. The 2016 Defence White Paper identified the need to ice-strengthen the planned third offshore patrol vessel.
The procurement of this vessel will improve the Defence Force’s ability to conduct patrols in the Southern Ocean. Operations will be able to occur across a wider range of ice conditions than are possible with the present offshore patrol vessel fleet.
‘The White Paper determined that the proposed naval tanker currently under contract (NUSHIP AOTEAROA to be delivered early 2020) be ice strengthened, reflecting the increasing importance of supporting New Zealand’s civilian presence in Antarctica. Ice-strengthening will enable the tanker to conduct summer resupply operations to the Antarctic. Resupply operations are of particular value for the delivery of fuel to support New Zealand and partner operations on the continent, including through the Joint Logistics Pool. Antarctic operations are also a key consideration for the Future Air Mobility project.’
This information has been supplemented by the NZDF’s unclassified Statement of Intent for the Period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2021 which has declared the NZDF will acquire an OcPV similar to the current two 85 metre OPVs, HMNZS OTAGO and HMNZS WELLINGTON, but they have a limited ability to operate near Antarctica. They are rated at category Ice Clas 1C – First year ice to a depth of 400mm only.
During this four-year period 2018-2021 the Defence Force will allocate resources to the acquisition project for an ice–strengthened OcPV, and provide for additional personnel and support mechanisms to integrate the vessel with the two current Offshore Patrol Vessels into the Fleet.
Increasing the capacity of the Naval Patrol Force will enhance the Defence Force’s contribution to all–of–government efforts to secure borders, observe and record maritime activities and manage marine resources.
Naval Patrol Forces will also render support to search and rescue operations, maritime counter– terrorism operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.