Rocket Lab scrubs test launch attempt from Launch Complex 1

Peter Beck, CEO and founder of Rocket Lab, says poor weather is delaying the launch attempt of Rocket Lab's first test rocket titled "It's a Test".

American-New Zealand aerospace company Rocket Lab seeks to blast off its Electron rocket from the quiet Mahia Peninsula during a 10-day window that supposedly begins Monday, May 22. With plans to start actual missions by the end of the year, Rocket Lab will use its signature space vehicle to transport small devices and satellites into low Earth orbit.

It won't be the first time that Rocket Lab has fired a rocket; in 2009, the company launched the Atea-1 suborbital sounding rocket. The satellites would be used for everything from monitoring crops to providing internet service. In 2010, Rocket Lab was granted an Operationally Responsive Space Office (ORS) contract from the United States government, leading the company to begin exploring low-priced launch systems for nanosatellites.

High winds on Sunday, May 21, however, prevented the planned rollout and launch preparations and delayed them until Tuesday, May 23, as Rocket Lab tweeted. With such light rockets - compared to the more heavy-duty and reusable rockets from Elon Musk's SpaceX, for example - the Electron will carry lighter cargo, like small satellites.

"During this first launch attempt it is possible we will scrub multiple attempts as we wait until we are ready and conditions are favorable", said Beck. The Rutherford engine is capable of producing a maximum thrust of 5,000 lbs in a vacuum, enough to launch a 150 kg (330 lb) payload.

"So far, it's only superpowers that have gone into space", Simon Bridges, New Zealand's economic development minister said in a statement.

Rocket Lab, Peter Beck poses for a portrait in Auckland, New Zealand.

Eric Stallmer, president of the Washington, D.C. -based Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said a couple of other companies are also trying to fill the niche that Rocket Lab is aiming for but there is plenty of potential for growth. The engine's main prop valves, injectors, pumps and engine chambers are all 3D printed through electron beam melting, and the engine itself is the first of its kind, using an electric motor instead of gas and creating a more lightweight, efficient machine.

"We are all incredibly excited to get to this point". Still, he thinks Rocket Lab's goal of 50 or more launches a year sounds ambitious, and would take several years to achieve.

Yesterday's launch from Mahia Peninsula was delayed because it was too windy.

  • Zachary Reyes