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.