The Rocket Lab's electron beam launched six small satellites – or small pieces – into a soil on Sunday from…
The Rocket Lab’s electron beam launched six small satellites – or small pieces – into a soil on Sunday from New Zealand. This is the second time the company’s rocket, which is less than 60 meters high, has done it.
Rocket Lab’s rivals have not yet been pulled by an orbital launch, which means it is in front of an increasingly packed rocket launcher that wants to launch smallsats for companies and researchers.
Other prominent companies in the dedicated small-launch launch industry are Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit and SpaceX Veteran Jim Cantrell’s Vector.
“[My team] built a beautiful machine”, told Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck CNN Business on Sunday.
Just as mobile phones have shrunk, similar technological advances have made the satellites smaller and more capable.
But rockets have not diminished and small sets have been forced hitch rides with much bigger payloads on powerful rockets, such as SpaceX Falcon 9 or Russia’s Soyuz rocket.
Smugglers often have to wait long periods for free space aboard a rocket.
Rocket Lab and a series of other startups aim to change it by flying smaller, less powerful rockets. The companies want to mass produce the rockets and offer far more frequent trips to space.
Sunday’s Rocket Lab mission included payroll for customers like Spire Global, which collects data about ships and aircraft worldwide and Fleet Space Technologies, which aims to connect remote devices to the Internet.
Beck, Rocket Lab’s chief, told CNN Business that Australia-based Fleet Technologies had been delayed for more than a year and was waiting for his payload in circulation. Fleet reached the Rocket Lab about a month ago, and the company’s satellite was able to take the electron on Sunday.
“It’s really what it’s about. Then we’ll make it available,” says Beck.
Paying for a dedicated launcher, like Rocket Labs Electron, may be more expensive for small businesses than hitching a trip on a larger rocket.
But Beck said that many in the industry are willing to pay for the convenience of an electron rocket. When the company is in full swing, he says that the electrons will move satellites to space twice a week.
Rocket Labs third aircraft is scheduled for next month and its fourth is slated for January 201
9. The company hopes to complete 16 launches next year.
Rocket Labs competition must not be too far behind.
Virgin Orbit, a company under the Virgin Virgin Group, wants to launch small-scale early next year. The system launches a rocket from under a wing of a Boeing 747 in midair.
Vector, the brainchild of former SpaceX Executive Cantrell, also plans an initial orbital flight within the next few months.
Dozens of other launches are waiting in the wings. Experts suspect that eventually there will be a shakeout on the market and there is no guarantee that Rocket Lab will survive.
“First, it does not necessarily mean you’re winning,” said Steve Isakowtiz, CEO of the ideal research group The Aerospace Corporation, CNN Business in a new interview. “Can they enter the market? Can they maintain it through production? And do they have the customer base?”
Beck, the Rocket Lab boss, said he believes the market is heading for a “brutal consolidation” over the next 12 to 18 months that will leave a few companies. And he is convinced that Rocket Lab will be one of them, he said.
The company, as Beck says, is close to making profits, has increased $ 148 million in venture capital and builds plants that can make a rocket per week.
“Anyone who owns a rocket company and tells that there are smooth sailing from here lives in another world,” said Beck. “But we have been successful and it will be more to come. It’s about scaling now and continuing to lead.”