Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifts off at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT; 6 p.m. local time) Thursday from Zealand. Credit: Rocket Lab
Resuming launches after a mission failure two months ago, Rocket Lab successfully placed a small U.S. military research and development satellite into orbit Thursday following a fiery liftoff from New Zealand on a flight that was originally supposed to launch from the company’s new pad in Virginia.
The 59-foot-tall (18-meter) Electron rocket ignited its nine kerosene-fueled Rutherford engines and climbed away from Launch Complex 1 on the North Island of New Zealand at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) Thursday.
Liftoff from Rocket Lab’s privately-owned launch base on Mahia Peninsula occurred at 6 p.m. local time, just after sunset.
Heading east from Mahia, the rocket’s first stage burned its nine engines for about two-and-a-half minutes, followed by a six-minute firing of the second stage engine to reach a preliminary parking orbit.
A kick stage deployed from the the Electron rocket’s second stage to begin a coast across the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and the Caribbean Sea before igniting its Curie engine reach a circular orbit about 372 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 37 degrees ...