Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket took off from a picturesque commercial launch base in New Zealand on Saturday, U.S. time, on a test flight that delivered three CubeSats into orbit on the company’s first successful satellite deployment.
The 55-foot-tall (17-meter) rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, a spit of land on New Zealand’s North Island, at 8:43 p.m. EST Saturday (0143 GMT; 2:43 p.m. New Zealand time Sunday).
Nine Rutherford main engines consuming kerosene fuel through battery-powered turbopumps powered the rocket on a southerly trajectory, through a thin layer of clouds, and into the stratosphere, before an upper stage engine took over to give the rocket enough speed to reach orbit around Earth.
It was the second test flight of Rocket Lab’s commercially-developed Electron booster, which is sized to haul up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) into sun-synchronous orbit 300 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth. Rocket Lab says the rocket fills a niche in the commercial launch market underserved by other satellite boosters.
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