- First-of-its-kind technology to offer affordable, high-frequency launches of small satellites
- Engine created through 3D printing and using electric turbopumps
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — April 14, 2015 — Rocket Lab, the rapidly growing aerospace company, today unveiled the Rutherford engine, revealing that the Electron launch system is the world’s first battery-powered rocket.
Electron is a small orbital launch vehicle, designed to transform the global space industry with affordable, high-frequency launches of small satellites.
“Historically, the time and expense to launch small satellites have been prohibitive, costing many millions of dollars and requiring endless patience and flexibility waiting for months to ‘hitch a ride’ to space,” said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab. “With Electron, companies can launch whenever they would like, at a substantially more affordable cost. This monumental advancement in space technology gives satellite-reliant businesses the freedom they have been waiting for, which will lead to vast improvements in how we use satellite technology in space.”
Electron features announced today:
- Electric Rutherford engine. Unlike traditional propulsion cycles based on complex and expensive gas generators, the 4,600 lbf Rutherford adopts an entirely new electric propulsion cycle, making use of high-performance brushless DC electric motors and lithium-polymer batteries to drive its turbopumps.
- 3D-printed primary components. Rutherford is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use 3D printing for all primary components including its engine chamber, injector, pumps and main propellant valves. Using this process, Rocket Lab’s engineers have created complex, yet lightweight, structures previously unattainable through traditional techniques, reducing the build time from months to days and increasing affordability.
- Payload integration. Electron’s upper stage is designed with the capability to disconnect the payload integration from the main booster assembly. Sealed integrated payloads can then be transported back to Rocket Lab where integration with the main booster can occur in a matter of hours. This approach eliminates the risk of cascading delays and allows customers to regain control of the integration process, using their own preferred facilities and personnel.
“Although the privatization of the space industry has promised an easier path to commercial launches, space has remained an incredibly difficult and expensive place to reach,” said Beck. “Electron makes it possible for us to continue to execute on our vision to enable easier access to space. As more small satellite companies are able to quickly reach orbit, we will see immense advancements in communication and imaging technologies, which has the potential to drastically change our world – from improved traffic reporting to crop planning to even mitigating the life-threatening damages of natural disasters.”
Electron is an entirely carbon-composite vehicle that uses Rocket Lab’s Rutherford engines for its main propulsion system. Electron is 20 m in length, 1 m diameter and has a lift-off mass of 10,500 kg. The vehicle is capable of delivering payloads of up to 100 kg to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit, which is the target range for the high growth constellation-satellite market.
The carbon-composite Electron creates increased access to space by giving customers the ability to launch satellites more frequently and affordably with a dedicated launch priced at $4.9 million. In a process that used to take years, Rocket Lab has reduced the lead-time from load to launch to weeks through vertical integration with Rocket Lab’s private launch facility.
About Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab’s mission is to remove commercial barriers to space. The company was founded on the belief that small payloads require dedicated launch vehicles and a flexibility not currently offered by traditional launch systems. Rocket Lab is a privately funded company with its major investors including Khosla Ventures, K1W1, Bessemer Venture Partners and Lockheed Martin. Founded in 2008, Rocket Lab is headquartered in Los Angeles with operations and a launch site in New Zealand.
For Rocket Lab
Analisa Schelle, +1-510-292-5410