Rocket Lab Successfully Flies Reused Engine in 40th Electron Mission

Rocket Lab, a leading commercial small launch vehicle company, has successfully launched its 40th Electron mission. This mission, called “We Love The Nightlife,” was dedicated to Capella Space and showcased several notable achievements for Rocket Lab’s reusability program.

The Electron rocket took off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, deploying Capella’s next-generation Acadia satellite to a 640km circular low Earth orbit. This satellite is equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, which allows it to capture high-quality and high-resolution imagery regardless of weather conditions. With increased bandwidth, power, and faster downlink speeds, the Acadia satellites are set to surpass the capabilities of previous SAR systems.

One of the major milestones of this mission was the successful ocean splashdown of the Electron rocket’s first stage. After launch, the first stage returned to Earth under a parachute and landed in the Pacific Ocean several hundred kilometers away from the launch site. Rocket Lab’s marine recovery vessel will retrieve the stage for analysis and testing, providing valuable insights for future recovery efforts. This achievement marks a significant step forward in Rocket Lab’s reusability program.

Additionally, this mission featured the flight of a previously flown Rutherford engine. This 3D printed engine had previously been used on Rocket Lab’s “There and Back Again” mission in May 2022. The engine performed exceptionally well, matching the performance of new Rutherford engines during the first stage burn. This successful demonstration highlights the potential for multiple flights of Rutherford engines, further enhancing Rocket Lab’s reusability efforts.

Rocket Lab has established a strong partnership with Capella Space, having launched two previous missions for the company. The “Stronger Together” mission in March 2023 and the “I Can’t Believe It is Not Optical” mission in August 2020 were instrumental in deploying Capella’s SAR constellation. The recent “We Love The Nightlife” mission is the first of four dedicated launches planned for Capella’s next-generation Acadia satellites.

Peter Beck, the founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, expressed his satisfaction with the mission’s success and the continued collaboration with Capella. He emphasized the crucial role that Electron plays in helping constellation operators like Capella deploy their spacecraft accurately and on schedule. Beck also commended Rocket Lab’s team for achieving 40 Electron launches, completing another booster recovery, and proving the viability of multiple flights for Rutherford engines.

With Rocket Lab’s expertise and continued innovation, Capella’s SAR constellation will continue to deliver the highest quality and resolution SAR imagery commercially available. The combination of increased capabilities in the Acadia satellites and Rocket Lab’s reliable launch services positions Capella as a leader in the SAR industry.

Rocket Lab’s achievements in reusability and successful launches further solidify its position as a global leader in commercial small launch vehicles. The company’s dedication to innovation, team collaboration, and mission success sets a rare achievement in the industry. As Rocket Lab continues to push boundaries and expand its capabilities, the future looks promising for both the company and its partners like Capella Space.