US: A contract has been signed between Rocket Lab and satellite company, Spire. The contract will allow Spire to fly its equipment on up to 12 missions into orbit later this year and throughout 2017. Spire uses small satellites to provide weather and maritime data and will be launched aboard Rocket Lab's Electron rocket.
Rocket Lab is building a launch pad and other facilities at the tip of the Mahia Peninsula, south of Gisborne. The Auckland-based company has two other customers for its service which promises to cut the slash the cost of small satellite launches. Spire has offices in San Francisco, Glasgow and Singapore and specialises in maritime surveillance.
Improved maritime data has positive implications for services including search and rescue, combating cargo piracy, monitoring illegal fishing and trade at large. Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said his company was focused on enabling customers "to achieve amazing things. Spire are quick thinkers and world-class problem solvers."
The Electron rocket makes extensive use of carbon fibre, new battery technology and 3-D printing to cut weight and reduce cost. At 18m tall, Electron is capable of delivering a 150kg payload to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit. Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle was created to provide frequent, affordable launch opportunities for the growing small satellite market.
Like many technologies, satellites have continued to decrease in size creating the need for smaller rockets. Beck said the Mahia launch site has the ability to facilitate a rapid rate of launches and a wider range of orbital inclinations than any other site in the world. Spire joins NASA and Moon Express as customers recently signed to fly on Electron launch vehicles.