Like Uber for space
Now anyone can put a sputnik into orbit
Rocket Lab has gone fully commercial, offering launches for small satellites at a tenth of the cost of SpaceX. The 3D printed rockets are less than three stories tall, but they still make it to orbit, in just a few minutes.
It’s like Uber for space launches. You book your slot on the app, and get a real-time quote on your phone, which varies with the size and weight of your satellite. Most popular are cubesats, only slightly larger than a smartphone, and controlled by users on the ground.
The rocket is made of carbon composites, keeping weight and fuel requirements low. The engines are metal-printed in a day, and designed to be expendable, rather than reusable. Instead of complex turbo pumps, Rocket Lab’s engines use simple electric pumps to inject the rocket fuel and liquid oxygen into the combustion chamber.
Unlike SpaceX, which builds huge rockets to be used many times over, Rocket Lab mass produces their lightweight rockets to benefit from economies of scale, and offers up to three launches per week from their New Zealand launch pad. Satellite payloads are plug ‘n play, and restricted to standard size and weight combinations.
Now that space is accessible to businesses and enthusiasts alike, the demand for orbital launches is set to explode, with Rocket Lab dominating the small end of the market.
For large commercial satellites, there’s also a choice of private launch providers, with SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and StratoLaunch all in the game. Like the internet, space is for everyone, not just governments.
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