3D Propellant-Powered Electron Rocket Finishes Final Phase of Testing
Andrew Wheeler posted on May 18, 2020 |
Rocket Labs hits milestone with the Electron slated for future Space Force mission.

At the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Va., space technology company Rocket Labs recently rolled out an Electron launch vehicle to the Launch Complex 2 pad. Rocket Labs specializes in small satellite launches, and this milestone is part of a dedicated mission in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program.

(Image courtesy of Rocket Labs.)
(Image courtesy of Rocket Labs.)

Engineers and technicians from Rocket Labs proceeded with several integrated systems tests to verify launch systems between Electron and ground systems at Launch Complex 2. For the first time, Electron was raised vertically on the Launch Complex 2 pad. Pad fluid systems were activated and tuned, and RF testing was performed alongside power and communication checkouts.

The testing finished after a successful hot ignition test of nine Rutherford engines on the Electron.

The nine Rutherford engines on the Electron Rockets run on 3D-printed liquid propellants. The 3D-printed liquid propellants are made with electron beam melting (EMB) technology. The maximum thrust reached by the rockets is approximately 15.65 metric tons. The rockets have a payload capacity of 225 kilograms, which is perfect for transporting the small satellite with large apertures.

The STP-27RM mission will launch one microsatellite from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Monolith program under coordination from the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center during the third quarter of 2020. According to Rocket Labs, the purpose of the mission is “to determine the ability of small satellites to support large aperture payloads to monitor space weather.”

Bottom Line

Prior to liftoff from Launch Complex 2, the Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) will need to be certified by NASA. This shouldn’t be an issue based on a prior successful performance at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. NASA expects to certify Rocket Labs’ AFTS in time for the Q3 2020 launch.


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