WASHINGTON — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched a single cubesat for Astro Digital Oct. 16, placing the satellite into a much higher orbit than previous Electron launches.
The Electron lifted off from Rocket Lab’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 9:22 p.m. Eastern, a launch delayed two days by poor weather at the launch site, and then pushed back nearly halfway into the three-hour window by gusty upper-level winds.
The single satellite on the rocket separated from the rocket’s Curie kick stage 71 minutes after liftoff, going into a polar orbit at an altitude of more than 1,000 kilometers. That altitude is more than twice as high as previous Electron launches.
Rocket Lab said the launch took advantage of upgrades to that Curie kick stage, including a switch to a bipropellant engine for higher performance. That kick stage is also the bus for its Photon smallsat service that the company announced earlier this year.
That satellite, Palisade, is a 16U cubesat built by Astro Digital that is intended to demonstrate a satellite platform known as Corvus. The California company, originally focused on developing its own satellites for Earth imaging applications, is now offering broader smallsat manufacturing and ...