Aerospace startup Rocket Lab will try again this weekend to launch its first commercial mission to space, a flight the company has dubbed “It’s Business Time.” The small satellite launcher is aiming to send up seven tiny probes into low Earth orbit on its Electron rocket. If successful, the flight will officially kick off commercial operations for the company, which has only pulled off two test flights so far.
Rocket Lab has had a hard time getting “It’s Business Time” up in the air, though. The company, which launches out of a private site in New Zealand, has tried multiple times to fly this particular mission, but had to stand down after noticing some weird behavior with one of the rocket’s motor controllers. After implementing a few design changes, Rocket Lab is ready to try again. The company has a launch window that extends from this evening, November 10th, through November 19th, and it has the option to launch every day between 10PM ET and 2AM ET.
Going up on this flight is a handful of small satellites from Spire Global, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Fleet Space Technologies, and the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program, and some of these probes are about the size of a shoebox. That’s because Rocket Lab’s primary goal is just launching small satellites. The company’s vehicle, the Electron, stands at around 56 feet tall and is capable of putting between 330 and nearly 500 pounds into low orbits above Earth. That’s perfect for satellite operators that focus on making their spacecraft smaller rather than the size of a school bus.
Up until now, Rocket Lab has only ever reached orbit once. It conducted two test flights prior to this mission, both of which made it to space. However the first mission failed to achieve orbit because of a glitch with communication equipment on the ground. The second one did make it to orbit, and deployed four satellites successful. If this mission goes well, then Rocket Lab can boast that it has put 11 probes into orbit.
And as soon as this flight is over, Rocket Lab has another one coming right up. The company is aiming to launch a mission for NASA this December called ELaNa XIX, one that will put up 11 small research satellites into orbit. The company has also maintained that it has a packed manifest, and Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck has said the goal is to perform 16 flights next year.
But first, It’s Business Time needs to finally fly. Rocket Lab plans to livestream the launch once a time for liftoff is set. Follow the company’s twitter for updates on the mission, and check back here to watch the mission live.