Rocket Lab, an American aerospace manufacturer, launched 13 small satellites into orbit on Sunday morning in its first mission for NASA. This was the company’s third launch this year, and the second one this month, CNBC reported. The successful Sunday mission also comes just one month after the company completed its first commercial flight.
An Electron booster run by Rocket Lab took off at 1:33 a.m. ET Sunday morning from a launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula in its operation called Educational Launch of Nanosatellites 19 (ELaNA-19), according to Space.com.
The 13 small satellites will orbit at 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, where each satellite will have a role of collecting different information. One of them will measure radiation levels in the Van Allen belts, and another will map out the terrain for a solar-sailing system for small spacecraft to explore deep space, Rocket Lab representatives told Space.com.
“There’s nothing more special than flying a mission for NASA,” Rocket Lab’s CEO Peter Beck told Forbes. Beck said it was a “very unique mission for NASA” because the federal agency had “secured a purely commercial launch vehicle to deploy CubeSats” for the first time ever. “This is as close as you’ll get to a government agency buying a rocket on a credit card.”
Beck tweeted early Sunday morning that the launch was a success.
As Rocket Lab looks to the future, the company hopes to make its first launch from U.S. soil next year, and plans to run a mission from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.