Watch: Rocket Lab’s successful ‘In Focus’ launch

Rocket Lab has successfully launched its 15th mission, and its fifth this year.

One of the Kiwi-American company’s Electron rockets took off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia today at 10.21am. It was the third attempt following a minor tech glitch on October 22, then a second delay for bad weather.

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“In Focus” carried commercial Earth-imaging satellites for US company Planet and Japan’s Canon.

Its manifest also included nine “SuperDove” cubesats for Planet, which will join the company’s constellation of Earth-observation satellites already on orbit providing medium-resolution global coverage. Plus theCE-SAT-IIB, a technical demonstration microsatellite developed by Canon – which has a middle-size telescope equipped with an ultra-high sensitivity camera to take night images of the Earth.

The launch came after Rocket Lab co-founder and CEO Peter Beck has been tweeting pics taken by the inhouse satellite launched last month to showcase his company’s Photon platform.

Co-founder and CEO Peter Beck – who recently chipped in to a new NZ venture capital fund aimed at finding next Rocket Lab and other “deep tech” stars has been musing about his company’s past and future as he waits for the launch.

Rocket Lab, whose shareholders include Lockheed Martin, a clutch of Silicon Valley VCs, ACC, Sir Stephen Tindall and Beck himself, now has a private equity valuation in the vicinity of $2 billion.

After one Twitter user mused: “It [email protected] is the best baseline so far to measure success in the small-sat launch market. Do we know what their development costs were or what their profit margin is?”,

Beck replied: “Less than $100m on development and a total of $180m to date including building 3 launch pads, 4 acres of production facilities, 2 mission controls, 14 flights and accounting for my mission to Venus.”

The Rocket Lab boss has been musing about the possibility of a Rocket Lab mission to the yellow planet, following the discovery of traces of phosphine in its atmosphere – an indicator of life. As a New York Times headline put it, “The search for life on Venus could start with Rocket Lab”.

That’s still on the drawing board, but his company does have its first launch from US soil coming up as it gears toward its support role for Nasa’s return to the moon.

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