Rocket Lab Boosts Electron Payload Capacity

Rocket Lab Boosts Electron Payload Capacity

Lars Hoffman, senior vice president for global launch services at Rocket Lab, said the company has continued to see keen interest in its launch services, even amid the pandemic

FREMONT, CA: Rocket Lab has increased the payload capacity of its Electron launch vehicle thanks to improvements in the batteries used in the rocket.

Rocket Lab previously promoted a payload capacity of 150 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and 225 kilograms to lower orbits. The vehicle can now place 200 kilograms into SSO and 300 kilograms in lower orbits.

"Electron remains right-sized for the smallsat market, and releasing additional performance is about providing our customers with even more flexibility on the same proven vehicle they have come to rely on," Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said.

Rocket Lab credited the increased payload capacity to advances in battery technology. The rocket uses batteries to power electric pumps instead of conventional turbopumps for its Rutherford engines. With the batteries' improved performance, it would reduce the mass of the batteries' needs, which would translate into increased payload capacity.

Rocket Lab plans to resume Electron launches this month. "We'll be rolling out here and flying in the next 10 or 12 days," Beck said. The company hasn't disclosed the customer for that mission, but Beck said it would do so soon.

"We've really not seen a slowdown in demand. In fact, what we've seen is that customers who were scheduled to launch on other launch providers, who are affected by that launch provider being delayed, have turned to us to see if we could manifest them in the short term," he said. "We're anxious to get back to normal launch operations."

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