NASA - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

05/25/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/25/2024 02:04

Rocket Lab’s Electron Rocket Go for Launch!

Rocket Lab's "Ready, Aim, PREFIRE" - the first of two launches of NASA's PREFIRE mission - is just minutes away from launch. After holding at T-12 for several minutes the countdown has resumed.

The CubeSat is set to launch from Launch Complex 1 at Māhia, New Zealand, aboard the company's Electron rocket, which is a reusable, vertically launched, two-stage rocket that uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellants. Propellant loading has begun, and the mission team has called out "go for launch." The rocket should launch in about five minutes.

Each Electron rocket is around 60 feet (18 meters) tall, with an exterior made of a carbon fiber composite, and can carry payloads weighing up to about 700 pounds (320 kilograms). Each Electron rocket uses nine Rutherford sea-level engines on its first stage, and a single Rutherford vacuum engine on its second stage. These 3D-printed engines use an electric turbopump powered by batteries to deliver propellants and fuel to the engines. A payload fairing protects the spacecraft or satellite as the rocket climbs through the atmosphere. An extra stage, called a kick stage, powered by a single Curie engine, will circularize the orbits of the PREFIRE CubeSats.

Previous NASA missions that launched on an Electron rocket include NASA's Advanced Composite Solar Sail System, TROPICS (Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats), Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE), and multiple Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) missions.

Some of the launch team members are located within Rocket Lab's private range control facilities at Launch Complex 1, located on the North Island of New Zealand. From the launch site it is possible to reach orbital inclinations from sun-synchronous through to 30 degrees, enabling versatility for missions to low Earth orbit. The bulk of the Electron operators, as well as NASA's Launch Services Program team and spacecraft customer team will be on console at the Auckland Production Complex.