Tag Archives: New Zealand

New Zealand has entered the space launch community!

New Zealand is now the latest country to launch something into space!  The vehicle failed to achieve a stable orbit, but it did climb above the Karman Line.  Rocket Lab’s commercial Electron rocket made its first test flight from Mahia Peninsula on North Island.  It’s a small rocket, intended to service the burgeoning nanosatellite market with promises of rapid flight scheduling.  Once it enters commercial service, it is expected to carry up to 330 pounds into a sun-synchronous orbit.  The first stage is powered by nine Rutherford engines (named for the New Zealand-born Nobel prize winner Ernest Rutherford, of course) which feature an innovative new fuel pump — rather than being driven by turbopumps powered by the vehicle’s own propellants, they use battery-powered electric pumps.  Additionally, this is the first operational rocket engine to be primarily 3D printed.

The flight wasn’t completely successful, but it didn’t explode and did make it all the way through staging and payload fairing jettison, which is damned impressive for a first flight, especially of an entirely new system with a first-of-its kind fuel pump.  This will definitely be a company to watch.

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Delta IV (5,4) launches WGS-9 successfully

Delta IV pulled off another flawless launch from Cape Canaveral today, placing the Wideband Global SATCOM-9 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.  WGS-9 is a military commsat operated by the United States Air Force but jointly procured by five other nations: Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and New Zealand.  This was not the first WGS satellite paid for by a foreign power; WGS-6 was contributed by Australia.  And ground stations have been paid for partially by partner nations, who, again, receive bandwidth in proportion to their investment.  USAF is moving towards launch of WGS-10 later this year, but that is expected to be the final element of the constellation, at least int the forseeable future.

This was the 35th flight of Delta IV, and the 108th successful Delta program launch in a row.  This flew in the 5,4 configuration — 5 meter fairing, 4 solid rocket motors.  Single-core Delta IV is expected to retire by the end of 2018, with only the Delta Heavy continuing on, alongside the Vulcan rocket that will be ULA’s next offering (intended to replace both Delta IV and Atlas V).

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